I am constantly amazed by the number of people I come across who do not have a current Will or Power of Attorney and many who have never made a Will. The importance of getting in place these two documents cannot be understated.
Most people know that a Will is the document that instructs a person (the “Executor” or “Personal Representative”) as to who is to benefit from a person’s assets if they were to pass away. Wills can vary greatly from a simple two page document to a very lengthy testamentary trust which is often
used to ensure, for example, that your business can continue to operate or to protect spendthrift children frittering away your life savings.
In today’s times, many families are blended. Many do not realise that if they died without a Will, their defacto may be entitled take a large share of their estate. Queensland Law says that if you have a defacto spouse, and one child, your defacto would take the first $150,000 from your estate plus ½ of everything which is left over. Your child would receive the remaining ½. This revelation is generally met firstly with horror by client and then with a quick series of appointments to get their Wills in order!
Also of interest is that superannuation, in most cases, is the most substantial asset owned by a person (second only to the family home), yet many people do not keep up to date their binding death nominations. Check with your Super Fund, but most of these nominations lapse after 2 or 3 years and are usually not covered by your Will.
Powers of Attorney are useful whilst a person is alive and either unable to manage their own affairs or away from their place of business and need a person on the spot to be able to make decisions on their behalf. Setting aside the emotional trauma which would be experienced by your family and business colleagues if you were to be involved in an accident and be unable to work, imagine the chaos if you were unexpectedly no longer able to make business decisions and sign documents to ensure your business continued to operate. Having a power of attorney will give a trusted friend or colleague the ability to do just that, thereby minimising any trauma to your business.
Be careful though – a General Power of Attorney will only give another person the right to make decisions for you whilst you have the ability to be able to communicate and make decisions. If you have lost that ability (either temporarily or permanently) then they would need to rely on an Enduring Power of Attorney which endures despite your loss of capacity.
If you do not have these documents in place, I urge you to contact your solicitor immediately for advice.