With the new year now upon us it is common to take stock of the year that has been and look towards the year ahead. This past year has been something no one could have predicted, and while the word “unprecedented” has been thrown around a lot, it is apt in the wake of the global pandemic.
One thing this past year has shown us with particular clarity is how quickly things can be thrown into chaos when confronted with an event for which we are ill-prepared, and it has stressed the importance of preparing for any foreseeable events that threaten to create issues in the future.
Whether you have yet to make a Will, or your current Will is rapidly becoming outdated, there has never been a better time to ensure that you and your loved ones are prepared for the inevitable.
Why do I need a Will?
It is common, particularly among younger people, to question the need for a Will. If I do not have any substantial assets to pass on, why do I need to worry about making a Will? This is, however, only one facet of what a Will does. A Will allows you to choose your Executor, the person or people who will act as your legal representative and make the necessary arrangements after you have passed, not only to transfer any assets you may have, but also to attend to the various tasks that arise such as funeral arrangements.
It is also necessary to notify various people and institutions of your passing, and this task is made a great deal easier when there is a Will to identify and enable the person you have appointed to handle such tasks. It is particularly worth noting that, in circumstances where you do not hold any substantial assets, it may be that you have debts that exceed your assets, and it is important that such issues are managed.
By making a Will and appointing an Executor to handle your affairs after your passing, you are creating peace of mind for yourself and minimising the issues that your family will face at a time that is difficult enough without the uncertainty that arises in the absence of a Will.
When should I make a new Will?
Ordinarily a Will is prepared to be flexible enough to allow for changes to your life; however, we recommend you review your Will every three to five years. Additionally, it is especially important to review your Will whenever you experience significant events in your life such as the birth of additional children or grandchildren, a death in the family, or any general family difficulties. It is also worth considering the arrangements you have made whenever you acquire or dispose of substantial assets such as real estate or shares.
Perhaps the most important events that affect your Will and will almost always require you to make a new Will are marriage and divorce. Under the relevant legislation your Will is generally immediately revoked upon your marriage, and a divorce will generally revoke sections of your Will if not the Will in its entirety. It is therefore particularly important to review your Will as soon as possible whenever these events occur.
What else can I do to prepare?
A Will ensures your affairs can be handled upon your passing, but there are also circumstances during life where you may find yourself unable to handle your own affairs. Much as a Will appoints a legal representative upon your death, an Enduring Power of Attorney or Appointment of Medical Treatment Decision Maker appoints a legal representative in circumstances where you are incapacitated during your life.
In the case of an Enduring Power of Attorney, you can appoint a person or people to carry out specific tasks or types of tasks on your behalf, or to generally handle your affairs while you are unable to do so.
In the case of an Appointment of Medical Treatment Decision Maker, as the name suggests you can appoint a person or people specifically to make decisions in respect of your medical treatment in the event you are unable to do so.
These documents are equally as important as a Will, arguably more important for you personally because life doesn’t stop even if you are unable to handle your own affairs. Having these documents ensures a trusted person or people is able to keep things running smoothly and ensure you are able to get back to living your life with minimal hassle.
If you have any concerns about your current arrangements, Burke & Associates are able to assist you with any issues you may have and to ensure that your estate planning needs are met. We know that everyone has different concerns and there is no “one size fits all” solution to estate planning. We work hard to ensure you are satisfied that, if and when the worst happens, your loved ones will be able to deal with things without any undue stress.