20 December 2023

Supporting your loved ones this festive season

Christmas is one of the only times of the year at which you may see your loved ones, including parents or grandparents. It may come as a surprise to you that a loved one is having memory issues, becoming a bit forgetful or has recently been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Careful planning and early intervention can help ensure that your loved ones are protected in a time of vulnerability.

Discussions around estate planning can be uncomfortable conversations to have with your loved one but it would provide them with peace of mind, if they can be sure their affairs are in order. You may wish to print off this article and leave it with your loved one to consider.

Will & Estate Planning

Dying without a Will, or leaving a Will that is poorly drafted or not recently prepared can cause your family difficulty in administering your estate. It often leads to Court challenges between family members and a significant portion of your loved one’s wealth could be spent on lawyers. The cheapest way to avoid these challenges is to have an up-to-date and valid Will, ideally prepared and witnessed by a lawyer.

Do not wait until it’s too late. A person can only execute a Will whilst they have testamentary capacity, and if a Will is executed at a time when that capacity is in dispute, it may result in litigation about whether the Will is valid.

If your loved one has already prepared a Will, this festive season is a good time for them to consider:

1. Who their executor is, and whether they are still the appropriate person to administer the estate;

2. To whom your loved one wishes to leave their estate to, and whether this takes into account any recent births, deaths, marriages or change in their financial circumstances; and

3. Any end of life wishes;

If your loved one is experiencing cognitive decline, dementia, or Alzheimer’s,  our office, or any other lawyer specialising in Wills and Estates can help ensure your loved ones wishes are fulfilled.

Substitute Decision Making

Power of Attorney

You may wish to support your loved ones with a power of attorney, to ensure that there is someone available to assist with their financial or person decisions, when they no longer can.

Your loved one can execute a power of attorney whilst they have decision-making capacity. If decision-making capacity is a concern, a lawyer can help protect your loved ones from any challenges to their wishes. Powers of attorney are often thought of as simple documents, however, they come with complex duties, and legal advice should be sought, particularly in circumstances where:

1. Your loved one making the power of attorney may want to leave gifts to family members, or provide any other benefits on family members;

2. You have complex financial affairs, such as family trusts or self-managed superannuation funds;

3. There may be family conflict.

Administration/Guardianship Orders

If your loved one does not have decision-making capacity and needs someone to make financial or personal decisions on their behalf, an application to VCAT may be necessary for an administrator or guardian to be appointed.

For VCAT to appoint an administrator or guardian, it must be satisfied that:

  • The person has a disability and due to the disability, the person does not have decision-making capacity for the matter that the order is sought (i.e. financial or personal decisions); and
  • That there is a need for a guardian or administrator.

Our office are experts in these applications and can advise you and your loved one on the process.

The team at Suzanne Lyttleton Lawyers wish you, your families and loved ones a safe and happy festive season and a prosperous 2024.

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