Your own death is not a topic you like to think about, but being prepared for death can save your family and loved ones a lot of heartache. It also increases the chances that your wishes will be honoured and that your loved ones are looked after following your death.
Everyone needs a will, even if you’re young, have no children and think you don’t own anything of value. If you have a job, you’ll at least have superannuation. Many super accounts offer life insurance automatically, which means if you die with some contributions to your super, your estate could still receive a fairly big payout. Super payouts like that aren’t automatically included in a will and must be dealt with by a binding death nomination.
When you write a will, you’ll also appoint executors – the people who will make sure your wishes are carried out. It’s common to choose family members to be your executor, but always make sure you choose people who are capable of doing the job, and that they’re happy to do it. Steer clear of anyone who’s bad with money, dishonest or untrustworthy, always find themselves in conflict or find it hard to make decisions: executors who aren’t competent often mean the estate ends up in a costly court battle.
Your Power of Attorney
An enduring power of attorney is a person you nominate who can make legal and financial decisions on your behalf while you’re alive, if you can’t because you’ve lost the capacity to do so. Although commonly a power of attorney is appointed to take over because you’ve had an accident or illness, it’s also a good idea to have one if you’re planning to travel overseas for a period of time.
An Enduring Power of Attorney should set out what kind of decisions should be made.
Should you lose capacity without an Enduring Power of Attorney in place, the Public Trustees and/or the Public Guardian automatically make decisions on your behalf. In this instance, family members must make an urgent application to a tribunal to be legally appointed as your decision maker. It’s important to know that without your wishes recorded, those appointed may make decisions on your behalf that you would not have agreed with.
Your Advance Health Directive
You can formally record what medical treatment you want with an advance health directive. This is a detailed written direction to doctors, other health professionals and/or family as to what medical treatment you are agreeable to and what treatment you clearly do not want.
A directive is particularly important when you can no longer make your wishes known – if you’ve suffered a catastrophic brain injury, for example, do you want to be kept artificially alive?
Planning your own funeral might at first appear morbid, but it can be fun and it really helps your family to know what to do when the time comes. Do you want a religious service? What music and flowers would you prefer? Although you won’t be there, you may have some preferences – and it’ll make life easier for your grief-stricken relatives if they already know how to plan your funeral.
Your Digital Assets
It’s not just physical assets you need to have a plan for these days, there’s also your digital assets. Who gets your cryptocurrency? What do you want to happen to your blog and your social media accounts?
You might want to keep a record of your passwords in a safe place for a person you trust to have access. This way they can follow your wishes with your online accounts when you die.
Here is a list of suggested digital accounts you may have:
- social media sites (such as Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat)
- banking and other financial sites (superannuation or share portfolios)
- government services (Medicare and Centrelink)
- phone and internet accounts
- local council services
- shopping sites
- cloud storage
- music such as iTunes
if you have children and they’re under the age of 18, your estate planning should also nominate who will look after them if you die. The obvious choice is their other parent, but this is not always possible or wise. It’s also possible that both parents die at the same time. In this situation, nominate who you’d like to have legal guardianship over your children until their adults – keeping in mind that there are various issues coming into play. Grandparents may feel they’re too old, there may be financial constraints, or ideological differences between family members.
At Estate Battles we can help you with all aspects of estate planning. Good estate planning is about considering all of the ‘what if’s’ – something we can help you to do in a thoughtful and comprehensive way. Our estate lawyers offer a free, 10-minute phone consultation. Please contact us today!