A freak accident on the harvester, a fatal car accident, or an incurable illness: these events are unpredictable and, irrespective of your age, anyone who owns a home or has significant assets should ensure a formal will is in place.
A will is an important document is succession planning. While the laws of intestacy operate if you do not have a will in place, your will ensures your estate (property, cash, assets and valuables) are given to the people or charities you want to benefit from.
You can choose the person (your executor) or preferably two people who would have the power to distribute your estate, in accordance with your wishes. The provisions within your will are important to protect those you leave behind, particularly if your loved ones are financially dependent upon you.
It is important that your will is prepared by a lawyer, who will ensure the will is legally binding and reflects your wishes.
A home-made will with unclear directions and not drafted according to the law can cause a dispute and could be easily challenged.
A financial power of attorney is a document that legally enables your family to manage your finances when you no longer have the legal capacity or are too ill to do so.
Legislation was changed in 2014, providing you with the right to nominate when your attorney can act for you, whether by acting immediately to assist you with your finances - such as paying bills, dealing with Centrelink - or when you cease to have mental capacity or legal capacity, to manage your financial affairs.
If you do not have this document, it can create a dilemma for your next of kin, who will need to obtain guardianship orders from VCAT.
A medical power of attorney is a separate legal document that appoints a person you trust to make decisions on your health when you are unable to do so.
If you have a car accident, in a coma or very ill, your attorney has the authority to make decisions about your treatment, organ donation or turning off life support and personal wishes you are unable to communicate at the time.
It is important you trust the appointed attorney. You also have the right to appoint different attorneys for finances and medical decisions.
When meeting with clients, I often hear the comment "I should have done this years ago".
It's time to ensure your will and powers of attorney are drafted by professionals. Contact your lawyer and put your mind at ease.