Estate planning is an important aspect of providing protection and support for yourself and for your family in the event that something happens to you. The process involves setting up legal documents which provide clear instructions to manage your legal, health care and financial affairs if you become incapacitated from an accident or illness, or when you pass away.
Why do we need to consider these things?
It is of course, perfectly normal not to want to think about the potential for serious accident, injury, or death! And although the topic is generally avoided, when we stop to consider it, most people find that they have strong opinions about how they would like to be cared for and what is left behind for their loved ones. This is where an estate plan can provide peace of mind, knowing that in the event that you are incapacitated or pass away, your loved ones, life choices and estate will all be looked after in the way that you would like.
Unfortunately, without any plans in place, a court or tribunal may need to appoint someone to make decisions for you. Your estate will be distributed according to State law, which can be a costly process and not necessarily in the way that you may have wanted. This process can, of course, cause additional emotional and financial distress for your family and loved ones at an already difficult time.
Setting up the plan is not a long process, and once completed, acts as an insurance and only comes into effect when it is needed.
How does it work?
An estate plan generally consists of four legal documents – an enduring power of attorney, an enduring guardian, an advance care directive and a Will. These are separate documents, each covering a distinct and important aspect of your care and estate.
- Enduring Power of Attorney
If you are incapacitated by an accident or illness and are unable to make decisions, the enduring power of attorney names a trusted individual or organisation, such as the Public Trustee, to manage your financial affairs. Without this document the control of your affairs is not automatically assigned to your spouse or loved ones, and therefore they may be left without the ability to access your finances or even sell jointly owned assets.
- Enduring Guardian
An Enduring Guardian appoints someone to make personal and medical decisions on your behalf, if you are incapacitated and lose the ability to make your own decisions. This document is especially important if you have specific wishes about your medical care and who can make decisions on your behalf.
- Advance Care Directive
You may also want to consider preparing an Advance care directive which is written document that contains your wishes and directions, so health practitioners understand what is important to you, and what medical treatments you do not want. This document only comes into effect if you lose the ability (either permanently or temporarily) to make these decisions yourself.
When you pass away, your Will explains who will look after your dependent children or pets. It also specifies how you would like your assets and property divided. As part of your Will, you need to nominate a trustworthy individual or organisation to be responsible for carrying out the wishes in your Will, such as selling property and distributing assets. This person is called your executor. As the role of executor can be quite complex, many people appoint the Public Trustee to be their executor, so that they do not leave the burden of this task to loved ones at an already difficult time.
Although estate planning involves thinking about situations which many of us would prefer not to consider, it can also provide peace of mind, knowing that you have protected your loved ones from the burden of dealing with courts or tribunals and that your estate and affairs will be managed in accordance with your wishes.
How to prepare documents?
You can prepare estate planning documents with a solicitor or by the Public Trustee.
When prepare documents with the Public Trustee you can chose to appoint a trusted family member or friend to take on the tasks of managing your affairs or finalising your estate or you can choose the Public Trustee to be your independent executor or attorney.
It is important that your documents are prepared by a professional with estate planning experience. If your Will is not done properly, it will be invalid. Click here for more information on the problems With Home-Made Wills
The Public Trustee specialises in estate planning and have a team of experienced lawyers, accountants and estate experts who can help you to easily understand the process and help prepare your plan. As estate plans deal with such significant matters and consist of legal documents, it is important to work with an experienced team who you trust, to ensure that your wishes will be carried out.
To book your appointment with the Public Trustee, please fill out our appointment booking form and a representative will contact you to confirm your appointment or call 1800 068 784.