Genders and Partners | Wills and Estate Planning - Lawyer Adelaide

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.

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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.”

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Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Organ Donation as part of your Estate Plan

There are a number of ways in which you can make an anatomical gift, which is a gift of your organs, body parts or your entire body for transplant, therapy, research or education.

Although you can put a clause in your Will or other properly signed and witnessed documents, it is best to sign up on a nonprofit organ donor registry such as the Australian Organ Donor Register.

This registry is a confidential computerised database that documents your wish to be an organ, tissue and/or eye donor. It integrates with the various state Departments of Motor Vehicles to note upon your drivers licence at the time of renewal.

In your medical power of attorney, you could give the power to make an anatomical gift to your medical agent, who would then have the authority to make a gift of all or part of your body in accordance with your previously-expressed wishes.

You may have a concern that your life might be ended prematurely in the interest of harvesting your organs. By law, every effort has to be made to prolong your life in accordance with your wishes, before an anatomical donation is considered. Also by law, the medical team treating you must be separate from the transplant team.

Generally, with the exception of gifts during your own lifetime such as blood, a kidney or bone marrow, body-part recoveries can only be pursued after all life-saving measures have been exhausted and you are officially declared dead.

There are no guarantees with anatomical gifts. Just because you direct that your body or parts be used for transplants, therapy, research or education, does not necessarily make it so. Your anatomical gifts must be examined and be acceptable to the medical school, anatomy department or organ transplant team.

There always is a need for bodies and body parts. There are long waiting lists for people in need of transplants. Even if your eyesight is poor, you may have a good transplantable cornea that could give somebody the gift of sight. You may have skin that can be used to aid a burn victim or bone that could be used for an accident victim.

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Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Estate Planning for Children with Special Needs

Estate Planning for Children with Special Needs

Most parents of disabled children worry about the day they won’t be around to help care for them, whatever their age.  They want to help them qualify for government (state or federal) assistance for medical and other services, and also to provide for their recreation, clothing and other small luxuries that improve the disabled person’s quality of life.

The difficulty for these parents, is in trying to grapple with the too-hard decision of who will look-after their children after the parents have gone. Many cannot overcome this emotional-paralysis, and simply hope against hope they will live just slightly longer than their child, so that neither parent nor child ever have to deal with the situation.

The reality is that most disabled children outlive their parents, so providing for their care after the caregiver’s death is a vital issue. If the parent simply leaves money for the child, it could disqualify the child for government assistance, but still not provide properly for the child’s special needs.

A special needs trust may present a solution. A lawyer specialising in the legal needs of the elderly and disabled, can help the parents or other family members to set up a trust.  With careful planning (both legal & financial), the assets may not be taken into account by the government when assessing the child’s entitlement to assistance, but distributions from the trust are used to provide greater comfort & independence for the child.

In this way, even after the parents have died, they can continue to care for their children. This can assist children with a variety of disabilities, including Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, the aftermath of vehicle accidents, chronic diseases or anyone who may need a combination of government and private services to provide a good quality of life.

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Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: How Estate Planning Trusts Can Protect You and Yours

How Estate Planning Trusts Can Protect You and Yours

Estate planning and trusts are all about planning, not only for your own future, but also the financial well-being of your family and loved ones after you’re gone. However, the reality of life can often get in the way of a smooth transition – divorce, second marriages, step kids, long-term illness and other family changes can sometimes make life and plans unpredictable.

Protecting your wealth & assets and the financial well-being of your family is about a lot more than simply parcelling-out your assets – it’s about providing for yourself & your family members in a way that’s responsible and specifically addresses your personal situation.

Many people make the assumption that estate planning and trusts are only for incredibly rich people. That is wrong.

A family discretionary trust is a very versatile estate planning tool that allows you to address inheritance goals for your beneficiaries – who may still be children, are disabled, are from a mixed family  – and a trust might be the answer to difficult questions like who will manage your assets if you or they become incapacitated.

Typically, when a child inherits money, it is invested for him and held until he or she turns 18 or older. Of course, giving a young person access to a large amount of money at the age of 18 can be dangerous and detrimental to their long-term financial health if they lack maturity or sufficient financial wisdom.  Some parents think that the lure of fast cars and endless parties may be too great a temptation for their beneficiaries to handle at age 18, and so they specify an older age, frequently 21 or 25.

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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;

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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.