Genders and Partners

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.”

Genders and Partners

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.

Genders and Partners

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: More common pitfalls of estate planning and how to avoid them

More common pitfalls of estate planning and how to avoid them

In my law practice I see lots of mistakes that people have made when it comes to estate planning, as well as some estate-planning strategies that could be used a lot more.

One of the most common mistakes is a misunderstanding of beneficiary nominations. Nowadays, many assets are transferred at death through superannuation funds, life insurance policies and annuities.

The owner of those investments or insurances (the person who set them up) will often have nominated a particular person(s) to receive the benefits of them, once the owner has died.  This is a separate & binding contract which can bypass the owner’s legal Will.

Many people don’t appreciate how important it is to get the designations of those nominated beneficiaries right.  I typically see beneficiary nominations where at the start of the marriage each spouse nominates the other as the sole nominated beneficiary for the super & the life insurance.  Unfortunately most people forget to keep their binding nominations up to date.  They forget to add the children, or only add some of them, leading to unintended consequences & heartache.

Similarly, if a child dies, most people would want that share to go to that child’s children, ie to the descendants, down the bloodline to the deceased child’s children.  Sadly many people get this wrong, and end up accidentally disinheriting their grandchildren.

And you can’t necessarily rely on “common sense” to sort it out after your death. Unfortunately, there’s little consistency within the financial-services industry. If the insurance plan administrator or superannuation trustee doesn’t know how to handle it, your family will be the ones paying to sort it out.

Genders and Partners

Elder Law and Retirement Planning: The BIG Estate Planning Issues

Elder Law and Retirement Planning - The BIG Estate Planning Issues

Elder Law and Retirement Planning are areas of estate planning relating to government benefits such as veterans’ pensions, Medicare & Centrelink, as well as to accommodation issues specific to seniors, such as retirement village contracts.  Other issues might include the need for long term care planning, solving disputes with family members, providing for powers of attorney, medical care planning or guardianship.

Elder Law is a growing specialty of estate planning that helps the elderly deal with many of the problems unique to their circumstances as retirees:

  • Preservation or transfer of assets seeking to avoid spousal impoverishment when one spouse enters a nursing home;
  •  Medicare claims and appeals; qualification and application; planning strategies;
  • Centrelink (formerly department of social security) pensions and disability claims and appeals;
  • Private health insurance issues;
  • Superannuation and life insurance issues;
  • Disability planning, including use of durable powers of attorney, discretionary trusts, advanced directives & “living wills,” for financial management and health care decisions, and other means of delegating management and decision-making to another in case of incompetency or incapacity;
  •  Guardianships;
  • Estate planning, including planning for the management of one’s estate during life and its disposition on death through the use of trusts, Wills and other planning documents;
  • Probate;
  • Administration and management of trusts and estates;
  • Long term care placements in nursing home and life care communities;
  • Nursing home issues including questions of capacity, patients’ rights and nursing home quality;
  • Elder abuse and fraud recovery cases;
  • Housing issues, including discrimination and home equity conversions (reverse mortgage);
  • Age discrimination in employment;
  • Retirement, including public and private retirement benefits, survivor benefits and pension benefits;
  • Mental health issues, especially regarding capacity and ability to live independently;

Genders and Partners

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Estate Planning for Illness and Incapacity

Estate Planning for Illness and Incapacity

Millions of Australians live with chronic illness or disabling injury. Many more will develop progressive and degenerating diseases of the mind and body.  With so many facing life with such severe challenges, smart estate planning can make the difference between maximising control over your life or falling victim to it.

How should they plan their estate to maximise their freedom, independence & quality of life?

What impact will your chronic illness have upon your health & mobility, your capacity & cognitive functioning? How might this change over time? How do you protect yourself from its effects?

Each chronic illness, whether dementia or senility, Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease or ALS, diabetes or cancer – has its own unique implications for planning. One-size-fits-all generic assumptions can be detrimental to you and your loved ones.

You should consult a lawyer who specialises in estate planning in Adelaide, preferably one with experience in dealing with the special needs of disabled & incapacitated people.

Your lawyer will discuss with you a variety of legal documents.  These may include Enduring Powers of Attorney, and how they may be tailored to address your concerns.

Other documents may include Medical Powers of Attorney (sometimes called living wills or health proxies), Advanced Directives, and Discretionary Trusts.

Your lawyer can draft legal documents to protect you in the context of your chronic illness, and to address the anticipated course of your illness.

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide : The Disinheritance Debate

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide : The Disinheritance Debate

60 years ago, a baby girl was given up for foster care by her birth mother due to shame about her illegitimate birth.  They did not live together after the first year of the baby’s life, and after the first 7 years shared no relationship at all other than biological.

Now the birth mother has died and left only $100 in her Will to that baby girl (now aged 60). The bulk of the estate was left to two other daughters. The disinherited daughter successfully sued for a third of the estate.

People always say it’s not about the money. But when someone is left out of an estate, they feel hurt, and their emotions take them on a roller-coaster ride.  Money and love get mixed-up.  Heart and head collide.  Grief can very quickly turn to anger, and people can easily relive childhood slights.

Highly charged issues of hurt, shame, pride, greed, love, unfairness, resentment, anger, prejudice and entitlement take over from logical thought.

In my legal practice I have heard hundreds of reasons for excluding family from inheritance.  Older generations were brought up to have different degrees of tolerance for unwed mothers, couples living-together and same-sex relationships.  The rising numbers of step-children provide real challenges to family harmony, and in many cultures it is considered acceptable to leave the bulk of the estate to male children.

Genders and Partners

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Risk & Retirement Estate Planning in Uncertain Times

Risk & Retirement Estate Planning in Uncertain Times

There is growing concern over health-care costs and world-wide economic issues at the moment, and retirees’ confidence in being able to afford a comfortable and financially secure retirement has declined to a very low level.

Some superannuation funds have recently reported their largest-ever drop in returns.

The Australian Government is publically encouraging workers to remain in the workforce after age 65.  They have relaxed the superannuation and taxation rules to make it more attractive to older workers to keep working.  Initially this was just to reduce the bill for the old-age pension which threatens to blow-out to enormous levels as the Baby-Boomer generation all retire together.

Then average life expectancies kept getting longer, so that people aged between 100 & 110 years old are the fastest growing category in Australian demographics.  This means that it is possible for some people to be on the aged-pension for longer than they were in the workforce!

At the same time, declining birth-rates over the last 20 years has led to a severe skills-shortage in the workforce, and the government wants to minimise the effect upon business (and therefore on the economy) by encouraging older workers to stick around in their jobs awhile longer.

Now, with the American recession biting into world-asset values, many boomers may no longer have the luxury of choosing to retire at 65 – they won’t be able to afford not to keep working.

Genders and Partners

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: How Much to Live? Planning to Retire

How Much to Live? Planning to Retire

I had a dream the other night – it was the scene from Life of Brian where the convicts are lined up before an officious jailer, who is ticking-off their fate on a clipboard: “Crucifixion? Line on the left – one cross each!”

But in my dream-version, I was confronted with a bean-counting accountant in front of a supermarket check-out till, behind which the line branched away into two corridors marked “Live” or “Die”.

I saw myself reaching for my wallet, asking “How much to live?”

In a weird kind of way, this is a very relevant, and thoroughly modern, estate planning question.

Back in the day, men retired at age 65 and women retired at 60.  They received the old-age pension, and generally died in their 70’s.

Now, nobody can afford to retire at any age, because the pension barely covers the cost of the petrol needed to drive to the Department to collect the cheque in the first place, and yet we’re all living to 100! The Queen must be going broke with all the telegrams she has to send nowadays to people reaching their hundredth birthday.

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Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Elder Care & Retirement Planning

Elder Care & Retirement Planning

Australians are living longer than ever before. About 5000 people are turning 65 every day, yet health care & retirement planning are things many people neglect. As a result many people find themselves struggling just to get-by in their golden years.

A proper financial plan, as part of an integrated estate plan, will consider the Medicare & Centrelink entitlements of each individual within the context of their family and personal situation.  The plan will include long-term care & medical treatment, accommodation & various insurances.

As we accumulate wealth we hope that one day, we can pass it on to our children and loved ones. But without proper estate planning, a protracted illness or accident can rapidly use-up that wealth leaving us with little or nothing to pass-on. Loved ones may inherit far less than they or you expected.  Without adequate asset protection mechanisms and insurances, existence can be much colder & meaner than it needs to be.

Learning how to use estate planning is an essential life-skill for retirees.  It helps to insure that the wealth you worked so hard to build goes where you want it to. You can protect your children’s inheritance, your hard-earned retirement benefits and assets, and much more.

Estate planning can help you with your golden years. Through it you can start learning the ins and outs of elder care, long term insurance, Medicare and more today. Don’t let your lack of planning be your downfall.

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Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Estate Planning after your First Marriage

Estate Planning after your First Marriage

Estate planning for your second or subsequent marriage is more of a challenge than it was the first time around.

If you have children from your first marriage, then those kids may have an entirely justified concern that their new step-parent could throw a big roadblock in the path of their inheritance.

When you got married again, it automatically revoked your previous Wills. If you don’t make a new Will after the latest marriage, the law of the State where you live will create a default Will for you, according to a statutory formula which probably won’t suit your intentions.