Estate planning requires some tough conversations and occasionally involves thinking about worst-case scenarios for you or your loved ones.
That’s why a lot of people treat it like the dentist, something that they know they ought to do but they keep putting it off.
Planning your estate and the more difficult aspects that come with it can be made even harder by dealing with a chronic illness, whether it’s your own or your spouse’s.
If you or your partner have to deal with the sort of chronic affliction that becomes more common with advancing age—such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, glaucoma or diabetes—or one that’s been a part of your life for some time, your estate plan will need a little extra care and detail.
That’s not to say estate planning is a wildly different process for someone living with one or more chronic conditions.
A lot of the best practices and documents remain the same and our team at the oldest law firm in South Australia – Genders and Partners, established 1848 – is well-equipped to guide you through the process of planning your estate.
But the unpredictability and progression of chronic illness adds more urgency to getting your estate planning ducks in a row and some more nuance to what that planning entails.
One of the most important aspects to take care of quickly will be assigning decision-making power to someone trusted in the case of you or your spouse’s incapacitation. First is establishing an Advance Care Directive (also known as a medical power of attorney or health care proxy).
This is a legal document that allows you to appoint one or more trusted persons with the legal authority to make decisions regarding your accommodation, lifestyle, health care and medical treatment if you should lose the ability to do so for yourself.
If you suffered a debilitating stroke, or lost capacity, your agent(s) or ‘substitute decision maker(s) would interpret, direct and dictate your wishes for health care should you become unable to express your care preferences.
Your agent can follow directions you have written out beforehand for expected or possible issues (such as a diabetic coma) and make decisions on your behalf in cases where there is no pre-existing instruction.
As part of an Advance Care Directive in South Australia, you can create a Binding Refusal of Health Care, which you can think of as a Do Not Resuscitate command.
This needs to be carefully worded and is one of many considerations and circumstances unique to your chronic conditions that will need to be clearly outlined, the process of which our team at Genders and Partners can guide you through.
There are plenty of specific legal and financial considerations that must be included when you plan your estate as well.
Many chronic illnesses allow you access to government benefits or disability pay, but there are crucial tax, income and asset factors to maintain those benefits while protecting the assets you want to protect for your family and their future.
Medical tax deductions are a useful tool for offsetting expenses or having to dip into assets for care and comfort.
If you lose the ability to direct or understand these conversations, it is essential that you have in place an Enduring Power of Attorney, so that someone you trust will have the lawful authority to deal with your affairs when you cannot do so for yourself.
This is another area where our experienced team can provide essential guidance—we’ll help you find the right way to protect the parts of your estate you want to leave to your family while making sure you don’t have to sacrifice quality of life and care to do so.
Alongside navigating asset protection and aligning them with your estate plan, you also need to assign a power of attorney for your finances.
It is important to get this power of attorney accepted by your financial institutions before you need to use it, as many have specific requirements and nuances, which may prevent the person you designate from actually being able to act on your behalf.
Our specialist team at Genders and Partners will work with you, not only to draft your power of attorney but help you to navigate the maze of requirements from your financial institutions for getting it accepted.
All of these elements rely on some tough conversations, dealing with unfortunate outcomes that may arise in the future.
Dealing with chronic illness, in general, is tough on you and your family, but at Genders and Partners, we are prepared to help you through the planning process with support and empathy.
We want you to have the peace of mind that you and your estate are protected, allowing you to enjoy the here and now with your loved ones.
If you or a loved one has a chronic illness and hasn’t established an estate plan or if your plan needs updating, contact us today and schedule your free 15 minute phone consultation to learn how we can give you and your loved ones the support and peace of mind you deserve.
SPECIAL REPORT “Powers of Attorney in South Australia”
In this report you will Learn:
- Different types of Powers of Attorney
- When do they take effect
- When and how to prove incapacity
- Duties & responsibilities of an agent
- Rights of agents regarding inheritances
- Interstate and overseas use
- Revoking a Power of Attorney
- Plus much more