Are You Prepared?

By Mark Teale

So my question to you, is are you prepared? This article may appear a little morbid, but the reality of life is that in most cases we do not get to choose the timing of our passing. In 1990, my dad passed away two weeks before his 62nd birthday, I was 34. Dad passed away without a will, which meant my mum’s financial position remained uncertain for a period of time which caused her an unnecessary degree of anxiety that could have been avoided.

A little over one year ago, my step-dad who at the time was residing in a nursing home, passed away – he was 94. He was as sharp as a tack but unfortunately, his body fell apart around him. He had lost most of his dignity and was embarrassed by his situation, he wanted to pass away and he hoped for it every night when he fell asleep.

The contrast between my dad and step-dad could not be starker. Dad was not ready for his death which was quick and unexpected, my step-dad, on the other hand, was ready and waiting for the moment he would pass and his dignity, he believed, would be returned. And very importantly my step-father had a will, as well as powers of attorney and an advanced health directive. This certainly made my role as executor and attorney very easy and of more importance, provided my mum with financial certainty at a time of great stress.

So how do you prepare for your own passing? In most cases, we do not have a choice as to when our time is up and from an emotional and even a physical perspective, I do not have the answer. However, from a financial and estate planning perspective there are steps we should all take to prepare for our passing and to make life easy for those loved ones who are left to pick up the pieces;

  1. A Legal Will
    Everyone should ensure they have a legal and valid will. Dying without a will or an invalid will is known as dying intestate. In such cases, the laws in each state will dictate how your estate is to be distributed. This could result in your estate being distributed in a way that would be contrary to your wishes.
  2. Your Superannuation
    This is an asset excluded from your will. Distribution of your superannuation will be in accordance with the trust deed. To ensure these funds are distributed according to your wishes, ensure you have in place a non-lapsing binding death nomination so that the trustee distributes the funds as intended.
  3. Enduring Powers of Attorney
    This means appointing a person or organisation who will make decisions and sign papers on your behalf and will continue to do so even as your mental capacity diminishes.
  4. Advance Health Directive
    A document which outlines your wishes regarding medical treatment and how you would like your body to be dealt with in the event of your passing.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it is a start and the bare minimum that a person needs to have in place in preparation of the inevitable.

Are you prepared?

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