Attorney

Why you should look at your estate planning

There are at least 3 documents you should consider as part of your personal estate planning:

  1. A will;
  2. A power of attorney; and
  3. Appointing an enduring guardian.

A WILL

A Will is a legal document that details who will take care of your assets and distribute them on your death in accordance with your stated wishes. Consider:

  • Who you would want to control your estate if you died?
  • What would happen to your estate if you didn’t have a Will?
  • Who would look after your children until they are adults?
  • That life insurance proceeds, jointly owned assets and superannuation benefits are likely not to form part of your estate on your death.
  • What would happen to your business if you died? Business succession is often overlooked or not adequately dealt with by lawyers in wills.
  • Who would control your family trust if you died? Have you even read the trust deed?
  • How your family could best receive any inheritance from your estate having regard to such things as:
    • their own estate planning; asset protection measures; and
    • tax minimisation issues.

If your Will does not consider the above issues adequately or at all, then your intended beneficiaries could be receiving far less from their inheritance than you might hope and paying more tax than is necessary each year after you die.

If you pass away without having a valid Will in place (dying intestate), then your estate will be divided up without regard to your wishes at all.

TESTAMENTARY TRUSTS 

Testamentary trusts can save your family thousands in tax each and every year though income splitting opportunities and also provide a level of asset protection to benefit future generations. See our previous article on Wills with Testamentary Trusts.

POWERS OF ATTORNEY

Who would make decisions about your finances or assets if you were unable to (such as if you are in a coma, are unconscious or suffer from mental incapacity such as dementia)?

You can appoint a power of attorney to be able to manage your affairs. If you do not, the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) can appoint a person that you do not know to control your assets and make decisions for you.

APPOINTING AN ENDURING GUARDIAN

Who would make decisions regarding your medical and dental treatment and where you live if you are permanently or temporarily incapable of doing so?

If you don’t nominate somebody as your enduring guardian, then NCAT can appoint a person to make those decisions, which can include what medical treatment you get or if life support is not maintained.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to estate planning, business succession or any  commercial law issues, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au.

What is a Power of Attorney?

GRANTING A POWER OF ATTORNEY

The Powers of Attorney Act 2003 (NSW) provides for a person to appoint another person as their attorney to make financial and contractual decisions on their behalf. The document granting a power of attorney is a prescribed form under the Act.

general power of attorney does not require a solicitor’s certificate however, it ceases to be of effect if you lose mental capacity (like where you are in a coma or suffer from dementia).

An enduring power of attorney on the other hand continues to be effective if you were to suffer such an incapacity. For this reason, an enduring power of attorney must be explained to you and witnessed by a lawyer who will provide a certificate in the prescribed form. We usually recommend an enduring power of attorney so that if some event happened to you that affected your capacity, your attorney would still be able to assist you.

If you are suffering from any illness, have deteriorating health, are going overseas or interstate or just want peace of mind, appointing an attorney to assist you to manage your affairs is generally a good idea.

HOW DOES IT OPERATE?

The nominated attorney has the ability to decide whether or not to accept that role by signing it.

You can choose when your power of attorney is to take effect. It can be restricted to only take effect if a registered medical practitioner certifies that you are of unsound mind, upon some other event (such as whilst you are overseas), from a date you choose or, it can operate immediately (for convenience).

You can give the power of attorney for specific purpose (for example to assist with the sale or purchase of a specific property or to attend an auction and bid on your behalf), for a specified time (for example, between 2 dates) and you can give directions on how powers are to be exercised (such as not to bid above a certain level or to only sell for a certain reserve price).

You can have a power of attorney for situations of necessity, like where you are ill or absent, or simply for convenience, but you have to appoint someone you trust without reservation.

An attorney may not use the principal’s monies or assets for gifts or benefits to the attorney or third parties unless this is specifically authorised in the document granting the power of attorney

ENDING AN APPOINTMENT

Provided you remain of sound mind, you can revoke a power of attorney at any time by signing a form of revocation and providing the attorney with that revocation.

The New South Wales Civil & Administrative Tribunal can review or revoke a person’s appointment as a power of attorney and can make a financial management order appointing a new attorney (or attorneys) or by appoint a representative of the NSW Trustee & Guardian if it is considered that your attorney not making appropriate decisions on your behalf.

DO I HAVE TO REGISTER THE POWER OF ATTORNEY?

A power of attorney must be registered at the Land & Property Information Division of the New South Wales Department of Lands if it is being used for dealing with land in NSW, such as selling, transferring, mortgaging property and the like.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to estate planning, business succession or any other commercial law matter, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au.