Wills, Estates, and Power of Attorney
Preparing a will is the best way to ensure that our loved ones are provided for after our death, and that our assets are distributed the way we intended. The last thing any of us wants is to have our family members experience any additional hardship because of an outdated or improperly-prepared will. A will can cover such things as how you want your assets to be distributed, who will look after your children, if you want to give any part of your estate to charity, and arrangements for your funeral.
It is estimated that nearly half of all Australians die intestate (without a will). In such circumstances, your assets are used to pay your debts and taxes, and then are distributed amongst your family members according to pre-determined rules. If you have no living relatives, your estate is paid to the state government.
It is important to keep your will up-to-date, particularly if your family structure changes (for instance if you have children or get married) or if you buy property. Marriage and divorce can make parts of your will void, if not the entire document, and assets that are not covered in your will cannot be distributed according to your wishes.
Powers of attorney
A power of attorney, basically, is a document that gives another person the legal power to make decisions and sign documents on your behalf.
General / Financial
A general power of attorney gives another person power to make decisions with regard to a specific event, or for a certain time period. For example, if you are selling your home, but will be out of the country during the sale, you may authorise another person to sign all the documents and deal with the parties on your behalf. Decisions made by an attorney are treated as though you made them yourself. Often, there are strict requirements about the wording and duration of powers of attorney. This is particularly so in sales of land, where banks will scrutinise the documents to be certain that the person signing for the proprietor is actually lawfully entitled to do so. A defective power of attorney can derail property settlements and generally cause inconvenience, and so it is essential that such documents are prepared by qualified solicitors. Many of our firm's clients live overseas and we regularly prepare powers of attorney to facilitate their buying and selling of investment properties.
An enduring power of attorney (medical treatment) is a legal document appoint another person to make medical decisions on your behalf. These decisions can include consenting to medication, surgery or other medical procedures. The attorney is also allowed to refuse treatment. It is recommended to appoint an attorney to make medical decisions in the event that you become unable to make your own medical decisions, so as to ensure that your wishes are respected. Since the appointment of an attorney is a huge responsibility, both for yourself and for your chosen attorney, it is important that you receive legal advice and that the document is properly prepared and explained to you by an experienced solicitor. Victor Tse & Associates prepares medical powers of attorney frequently for our clients and we have the experience necessary to ensure that your wishes are taken care of.
For more information about powers of attorney, please contact the Office of the Public Advocate