Making a Will in times of social isolation
This article is written by Louise Mace, Managing Director of New Way to Stay, and originally published as “Helping you take care of Legal Affairs from the comfort of home” on Stockland Benefits Plus.
It’s a common scenario. You have that sudden little jolt and momentary panic: “I really should update my Will and get my affairs in order”. Then as quickly as the thought arrives, it gets lost in the long list of other priorities.
Sound familiar? If it does, you are not alone. According to a 2018 survey by Finder, 52% of Australians do not have a Will.
As the Coronavirus pandemic has emerged over the past months and we are being urged to stay at home, you may be wanting to use this time to get your affairs in order and you may be wondering if it is possible to do this from home.
Can I make a Will from home?
A Will or a total estate plan might be one of the most important undertakings in a person’s life. Not getting your affairs in order can have far reaching and devastating effects on family members for years to come. Most of us do not want to leave a legal mess behind for our loved ones after we die. Similarly, if we become too ill or incapable of making decisions in our own best interest, we want the peace of mind that steps have been taken to protect ourselves and close family members from the additional stress of making difficult and big decisions hastily.
The good news is that you can still get your affairs in order, whether strictly self-isolating or not. On the 22 April NSW and Qld introduced temporary measures to allow signing and witnessing of important legal documents such as statutory declarations, wills, powers of attorney and appointments of enduring guardians by video link.
In accordance with these new temporary acts, the New Way to Stay network of solicitors have adapted their practices to work remotely and provide advice and estate planning where possible from the safety of your own home. As a Stockland resident, this service is available to you. If you already have your own solicitor, then it may be worth checking if they are able to provide a similar service.
Family law can differ in each state and while some Wills and estate plans are straightforward, others are far more complex, so it is important that you phone or email your New Way consultant first to discuss your individual circumstances. By doing this, our team of experts can help guide you towards the most compatible service provider to suit your needs. We can also help explain the different risks or potential barriers, depending on which aspect of your legal or financial affairs you would like to take care of. The initial phone call from all Stockland residents to New Way to Stay is 1800 370707 and is complimentary. After your needs are clearly established, a consultant Will help set you up with a compatible service designed to suit your needs, budget and location.
Why do any estate planning at all?
Any adult over the age of 18 who has accumulated assets or has any dependents at all, should be thinking about what they would like to have happen with their estate when they die. Just as importantly, they might be thinking about their future and unforeseen circumstances related to their personal wellbeing if they were to become incapacitated or incapable of making important decisions.
Laws may differ in each state, however, the key elements involved with making a Will and setting up an estate plan might include the following.
Making your Will
This is a legally binding document that sets out how and to whom you would like your assets dispersed when you die. Making a valid Will is the only way you can ensure your assets will be distributed according to your wishes when you die. As life circumstances change, it is our advice that a Will should be looked at every three to five years to ensure it still reflects your circumstances and your wishes.
Advanced Care Planning
The other important document that is often misunderstood or not provided for is Advance Health Care Planning.
Advanced Care planning is described under differing legislation for each state.
In NSW an Advance Care Directive or a ‘Living Will’ is a clear statement that gives your directions, wishes and values in writing. This is commonly part of establishing your estate plan and can be included when having your other legal matters attended to. An Advanced Care Directive is made by you in advance of the need for medical treatment decisions and is written up based on your own personal wishes aligned with any circumstances that you may believe relevant to your medical circumstances. You may choose to attach this document to your Enduring Guardianship appointment and, if you wish, it can also be attached to your My Health Record.
In NSW, an Enduring Guardian is an appointed representative who can make decisions on your behalf when you can’t regarding your lifestyle, health and medical decisions, such as where you will live, what services are provided to you at home and what medical treatment you receive. Enduring Guardianship only comes into effect if or when you lose capacity and will only be effective during the period of incapacity. It may be a good safeguard for the future in the event of unforeseen situations where you would like a nominated person to represent you. In many cases, however, it may not be needed and therefore, it may never become operational.
In Queensland, there is no “appointment of enduring guardian” form. Instead, an Enduring Power of Attorney acts in the same way described above but can also appoint an enduring attorney for personal/health matters as well as for financial matters. In Victoria, an Enduring Power of Attorney acts in the same way.
No matter which state you live in, it is important that you have these conversations with your family and your solicitor. Homemade Will kits and other informally produced legal documents often risk being invalid because of a simple error that a solicitor would never make.
Power of Attorney
In NSW and Victoria, a Power of Attorney is a legally binding document that transfers specific power to a designated person or persons. Sometimes a person needs another individual(s) to make certain financial decisions. When this occurs, the person transfers Power of Attorney to the other individual.
At New Way to Stay, whether it be tailored advice guiding your Legal, Financial, ACAT or Home Care decisions, the team is here to help you through this difficult time of isolation and future uncertainty. The last thing any of us needs right now is additional worry over details that still have time to be put right over the days, weeks and possibly months ahead. Perhaps one of the more positive things to come from staying at home in isolation is that you have time to think through protective strategies for your future.
As your first point of contact, New Way to Stay has a safe and robust process throughout the COVID-19 response period to serve your needs and to advise, guide and connect you with the most compatible solutions all via effective remote communication.
The first step towards getting it done is making a simple phone call or email:
Phone: 1800 370707
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.