Guardian

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 does an enduring guardian do?

An enduring guardian is a person appointed to make decisions about your health and lifestyle for periods in which you are incapable of making such decisions for yourself (for example if you have dementia, are in a coma, are unconscious following a car accident or suffer from some other mental incapacity.)

Appointing an Enduring Guardian is an important step in implementing a proper estate plan (others include having a Will and appointing a Power of Attorney).

HOW DO YOU APPOINT AN ENDURING GUARDIAN?

You can choose who can make decisions on your behalf regarding your medical and dental treatment and decide where you live if you are not capable of doing this for yourself. These are known as “functions”. The easiest way to do this is to appoint an enduring guardian.

The appointment of an enduring guardian takes effect only if and when you become unable to make personal or lifestyle decisions for yourself, such as where you are in a coma, are unconscious or suffer from mental incapacity like dementia.

WHO CAN BE APPOINTED?

An enduring guardian must be at least 18 years of age but cannot be a person who, at the time of the appointment, provides you with medical treatment, accommodation, support or care to you as a professional.

The appointed enduring guardian should be someone that you trust absolutely as they have significant powers. Although an enduring guardian must act in accordance with the provisions of the Guardianship Act 1987 (NSW), you should be satisfied that the person you appoint will act in your best interests.

You can appoint more than one person to act as your enduring guardian – either jointly (together) or separately. You can also appoint alternative enduring guardians in case something happens to your first nominated enduring guardian. For example, people often appoint their spouse and have their children as their joint alternate enduring guardians.

WHAT DECISIONS CAN AN ENDURING GUARDIAN MAKE?

You can give your enduring guardian the discretion to make all decisions for you when you are not able to make them for yourself or alternatively, you can limit your enduring guardian’s functions such as to consenting to certain procedures, limiting their discretion as to the type of nursing home or care facility you want to reside in or requiring specialist consultation or consultation with relatives regarding decisions about your care and treatment.

You cannot give your enduring guardian a function or direction which would require an unlawful act, such as assisted euthanasia. You can provide specific directions regarding turning off life support, ‘do not resuscitate’ orders, assisted ventilation, artificial nutrition and hydration etc.

ENDING ENDURING GUARDIANSHIP

An enduring guardian’s appointment comes to an end when you die or if you revoke the appointment however, you can only revoke it provided you still have mental capacity.

The New South Wales Civil & Administrative Tribunal can review or revoke a person’s appointment as an enduring guardian and can make a guardianship order appointing a new guardian or appointing a representative of the NSW Trustee & Guardian if it is considered that your guardian not making appropriate decisions on your behalf.

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.