End-of-Life Planning

End-of-Life Planning

Deciding how you want to live out your last days is a touchy subject for most people, but if you don’t take the time to do so now, you and your loved ones could end up suffering needlessly. While you are still of sound mind, you need to determine whom you trust to make decisions about your lifestyle and medical care if you are ever incapacitated.

An expert Adelaide estate planning lawyer can document your end-of-life wishes with an Advance Care Directive to help you attain peace of mind about your future and get back to the business of living in the moment.

The Looming World Crisis of Incapacity in SA

The Looming World Crisis of Incapacity

Australia is facing a tsunami of widespread mental incapacity among the largest and wealthiest segment of our population. Advances in mental health have not kept pace with advances in other areas of medical science.

According to Alzheimer’s Australia, more than 340,000 Australians currently have dementia, and that number is expected to reach nearly 900,000 in the next 35 years unless a medical breakthrough occurs. These grim statistics highlight the need for everyone to plan ahead so that their medical and financial needs are met should they ever become mentally incapacitated.

When it comes to Wills & estate planning in Adelaide, you can trust the oldest law firm in South Australia, Genders & Partners to guide you through the tough decisions you must make for your future care and financial welfare.

Elder Abuse Caused by Lack of Estate Planning

Elder Abuse Caused by Lack of Estate Planning

On 26/02/2014 the UK Court of Protection decided the case of JS –v-  KB & MP .

The Court itself said: “This cautionary tale illustrates vividly the dangers of informal family arrangements for an elderly relative who lacks mental capacity, made without proper regard for:

      i.         the financial and emotional vulnerability of the person who lacks capacity; and

ii.         the requirements for formal, and legal, authorisation for the family’s actions, specifically in relation to property and financial affairs.”

The case concerned a 90 year-old female suffering from a progressive dementia. She had been cared for by her daughter for over three years.  The Court found that “The actual care arrangement is in many ways excellent … [the patient] is receiving devoted care and is reported to be happy. For this, [the daughter] deserve genuine credit.”

However, the Court found that the daughter had used informal and improper means by which the patient’s finances were utilised by the daughter to fund the care arrangements, and this led to the sale of the home in which she had lived for over fifty years effectively ‘over her head’, and the proceeds of sale being placed out of her immediate reach, rendering her financially highly exposed; government benefits and retirement pension payable to the patient had been subsequently been diverted into an account in the daughter’s name. All of this was done without legal authority.

The Growing Need for Advance Care Directives

The Growing Need for Advance Care Directives

A 2013 report from Alzheimer’s Disease International warns that the number of older people needing care globally is set to nearly treble by 2050 from 101 million currently to 277 million.

Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia or senility. Symptoms include loss of memory, mood changes, and problems with communicating and reasoning.

The report reveals that as the world population ages, the traditional system of informal care by family, friends and the community will need much greater support.

This means that increasing numbers of people aged 60 or over will require long-term care.  This will put huge pressure on families, both emotionally and financially. Carers often have to give up work to look after elderly relatives.

This epidemic of dementia will have specific legal consequences for patients and the people caring for them.  In particular, their loss of mental capacity to make decisions in their own best interests, creates a need to put in place an appropriate system of delegated authority.

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Kids Growing Up

As a parent, what is our worst fear?

Kids Growing Up

For most of us, it would be receiving that phone call telling us that our child is having a medical emergency. It might be a car accident, or some other health crisis, but as soon as we are notified we want to rush into action to help them.  No matter how old they are, they will always be our child, even if they are now an adult.

It used to be that when a child turned 21, he would receive a key to the front-door of the family home, in a rite-of-passage symbolising and acknowledging their transition from child to adult.

With the faster pace of life, and changing societal expectations, the legal age-of-majority is now18.

Did you know that if your children are aged 18 or older, even if they are still living at home with you, then you are no longer able to make their medical decisions for them? In fact, you have no right to speak with their doctor or nurses or see their medical records.

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Star Trek and Estate Planning

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Of all the countries in the world, Australia ranks in the top 5 with longest lifespans (17 places ahead of the UK and 33 places ahead of the USA).  Each year, our average life expectancy continues to increase.

And yet, more than half of adult Australians do not have a legal Will, and even fewer have an integrated estate plan.

Life used to be simpler. People worked for the same employer for their entire career. They had government-guaranteed pensions. Medical expenses were manageable. Divorce was rare and remarriages rarer still.  25 years ago, when my legal career began, I can clearly recall the expression “broken home” being used as an excuse for various misconduct. Most people were not invested in the stock market.

But, the trade-off was that although life was simpler, it was also significantly shorter. Retirement didn’t last long, so people didn’t worry as much about having sufficient savings to last a lifetime. Long periods of incapacity were unusual.  You worked, then you died.

When the Australian Government began the aged pension in the 1920’s, they set the age-of-eligibility at 65 for men.  At that time, the average life expectancy for men was only 63, so the Government did not expect to have to pay out much for the pension, nor medical treatment, aged care or publically assisted accommodation.

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Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Is it Time for The Talk?

Challenging Estate Planning Conversations

Is it Time for The Talk?

In family life there are a number of “Talks” which parents need to have with their children. Remember “Where do babies come from?”

Well, much later in life, older parents need to talk to their adult children about Wills and powers-of-attorney, elder care and end-of-life decisions.

In my practice as a lawyer specialising in estate planning, I have repeatedly noticed that my older clients are generally much more willing to discuss estate planning issues than their adult children.

I have speculated as to the reasons for this, and have come up with a list of possible explanations:

  • Fear of being seen as interfering in their parents’ affairs;
  • Concern at how their interest in their parents’ estates may be interpreted by others;
  • Discomfort at confronting the mortality of their parents;
  • A recognition that parents are getting older, and perhaps their best health is behind them;
  • A perception of “passing the baton” from one generation to the next.

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: The Benefit of Advance Directives

The Benefit of Advance Directives

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine, shows one in four elderly people require someone else to make decisions about their medical care at the end of their lives.

These findings support the value of advance healthcare directives as a means of making end-of-life treatment preferences known (sometimes called anticipatory directives or living wills).

The study found that such formal estate planning documents improved the likelihood that a patient’s wishes would be followed and reduced emotional trauma among family members.

The results illustrate the value of people making their end-of-life wishes known in an advance directive (living will) as well as designating someone to make treatment decisions for them before the end-of-life stage.  This is why both a Natural Death Advance Directive and a Medical Power of Attorney are necessary parts of a modern integrated estate plan.  Each document fulfils a specific purpose.

The Associated Press reports: “In the study, those who spelled out their preferences in living wills usually got the treatment they wanted. Only a few wanted heroic measures to prolong their lives. The researchers said it’s the first accounting of how many of the elderly really end up needing medical decisions made for them.”

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Estate Planning to Show Your Family You Love Them

Estate Planning to Show Your Family You Love Them

How can you show your love for your family even after you are gone? None of us knows what the future holds. My godfather died in his 20’s and he left his young wife with a 3 month old baby to take care of. It doesn’t matter what stage of life you are in, you need to be prepared.

Here are a few practical steps to help you be prepared from a financial and administrative perspective.

1. Create a legal Will and keep it up to date.

Even if you don’t think you have a lot of assets, you need to have a Will because you don’t want the government to dictate what happens to your property after you are gone. It will save your family a lot of time and grief, because getting an estate in order after someone has died without a Will can take a lot of time and money.  You may be surprised by how many possessions you own … Super, life insurance, a car … it all adds up.

It is important to discuss who will care for your children if something should happen to both parents. It is certainly a hard decision and there are many factors to consider.

Don’t risk a DIY Will-kit. They are little more than expensive pieces of stationery, and offer no backup or support. They even say on those kits that they are not intended as a substitute for legal advice!  They are the cause of a growth-area in estate-litigation, because so many people make mistakes with them. The problems will only show up after you’re dead and gone.  Then it’s your family & loved ones who have to wear the cost and all the delay and heartache to try to fix it all afterwards.