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.

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Star Trek and Estate Planning

Wills-Estate-Planning-slider

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.

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: The Right to Choose – Live or Die

The Right to Choose – Live or Die

Do you have strong feelings about what should happen at the end of your life?

You are not alone.

Around Australia in the last 15 years there have been several legislative attempts to create a framework for assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia, and there have recently been Bills before the parliaments in both South Australia and Western Australia upon this issue.

In 1995, the Northern Territory of Australia became the first place in the world to pass right to die legislation. The Rights of the Terminally Ill Act lasted 9 months before being overturned by the Australian Federal Parliament. At present, voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal in all states and territories of Australia; however the pressure is growing for change.

There are already places in Europe and in the USA where the laws permit degrees of voluntary euthanasia.

Of course this is a sensitive and controversial topic, provoking extreme reactions among people.  It touches upon some of the same issues as Capital Punishment and Abortion.

For some, the sanctity of human life is paramount, and for them religious beliefs prevent any suggestion of termination of life.  This group might be called the “Right to Life” group.

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: The End of Life Debate in Australian Estate Planning

In June 2010 the Supreme Court of South Australia Court effectively granted an elderly woman’s wish to die.

The End of Life Debate in Australian Estate Planning

The woman was in her 70s and confined to a wheelchair. She instructed her nursing home to stop giving her food and drink and the drug insulin, knowing she would die.

She clearly asserted her right to refuse to take food and medication. The Court case was instigated by the Nursing Home in which she resided, because of concerns that her carers might face prosecution for assisting in a suicide or committing other crimes if it complied with her desires.

The judgment is a first in South Australia and reflects a similar ruling in Western Australia in 2009, where the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, held that Christian Rossiter be allowed to withdraw nutrition & medication, even though the undoubted consequence of this would lead to his death.

Rossiter had become a quadriplegic after a road accident, and retained full ability to understand his condition and to make reasoned choices on his own behalf. His fully functioning mind was trapped within a body which was unable to undertake any basic human functions’. Nutrition was provided to him through a tube inserted directly into his stomach.