COVID-19 has brought into focus the uncertainty that inherently exists in our world. We just don't know what is around the next corner. This has caused many of us to consider whether our affairs are in order. Here are our top five tips:
- Have in place a valid, up to date, well drafted and properly considered will. John Laws once said "oils ain't oils" – well "wills ain't wills" either. The world is a complex place with many interacting and overlapping laws and legal concepts. Whilst we understand people's desire for a simple will, often simplicity undermines what the client is trying to achieve. Why compromise on the vehicle that transfers all of your life's work and wealth?
- Appoint an Attorney. An Attorney can stand in your shoes to exercise your legal rights when you have lost the mental capacity to act for yourself. You might think that this is just for old people. It's definitely not. We regularly see examples of people losing their mental capacity in their 30s, 40s and 50s through accidents, and unforeseen serious medical conditions. Having in place an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) means your affairs can continue to be managed. The world does not stop just because you do.
- Sign a valid superannuation binding death benefit nomination (BDBN). Did you know that in most cases its up to the trustee of your super fund to decide who gets your superannuation after your death? This is a complex area of law that is often oversimplified and commoditised with potentially disastrous consequences. You should seek proper legal advice before you take this step. With the huge increase in wealth held in superannuation, having a strategy in place to ensure your super goes where you want it to is very important.
- Make your medical and dying wishes known. The fact is we will all die at some stage, so there is no point in burying your head in the sand. An Advance Care Directive (ACD) allows you to make clear what you would like to happen in the event you suffer a medical condition. This can be as simple as a wish to continue to be well groomed, to as complex as your end of life wishes and directions about ceasing medical treatment. If you wish to donate your organs, you will need to register that wish at donatelife.gov.au, having it on your drivers licence is not legally binding. You should also make your funeral and burial/cremation wishes known to your loved ones.
- Consider and document your business succession plan. People often confuse a succession plan as having to hand over control now. That is not necessarily the case. The first step is to agree on a road map and then ensure you have the correct legal structure in place when the time comes to implement the plan. That might be many years down the track. Good advisers can help you tackle this often complex and difficult task.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.