"What matters most" is the theme for this year's National Palliative Care Week with a focus on the need for Australians to plan ahead for their end-of-life care and discuss it with their loved ones and health professionals.
There is also a need to look at legal questions and prepare a will and appoint a power of attorney, Saines Lucas Solicitors answer some of the more common questions on these topics.
What happens if you die without a will?
Laws will determining where your assets are distributed. An administrator is usually appointed and all assets and personal belongings are sold. Funds are distributed strictly in accordance with the law.
Do you need a solicitor to make a will or can you use a retail will kits?
Anyone can make a will, you don't need a solicitor. However, if not done properly (which can easily occur without competent legal advice) it can be declared invalid and your estate is treated as if you did not have a will. An unclear handwritten will may also cause a dispute. We recommended seeing a solicitor to ensure your will is legally binding and correctly reflects your wishes.
What does a power of attorney cover?
A general power of attorney authorises the person you nominate to make decisions on your behalf and manage your money and assets. A person can still make some decisions and may need a power of attorney to only assist with some matters, like paying bills, but in other circumstances where a person has no mental or legal capacity at all, a power of attorney must manage all affairs. It is important to consider appointing a person in the event they are needed.
What is a medical power of attorney?
A medical power of attorney authorises the person you nominate to make decisions in relation to your health and medical treatment only. Like authorising a particular treatment or operation if you are unable to make the decision yourself. This person can also make decisions on your behalf at the end of your life about things like life support and organ donation. It is very important to consider appointing someone you trust. Often people nominate different people as attorney for medical decisions and financial decisions.
What can I do if I have been left out of a will or I believe the will is unfair?
It is possible to challenge a will by legal proceedings. Only people related to the deceased, or people dependent on them and have a financial need, can challenge a will and make a claim. Family members, in particular those financially dependent upon the deceased and have a financial need, who were not properly provided for, may have a good claim. It is very important to obtain legal advice in this regard.