It’s times like these we consider our own mortality
Floods, cyclones and earthquakes tend to get us thinking. Things sometimes happen that are beyond our control; that change the course of our future. As distasteful as it may be to ponder your own mortality, here’s the thing – there are actions you can take now to protect your lifestyle in the future. Actions that don’t involve monthly premiums.
While there’s no disputing the importance of a will, there’s a tendency for many people to only consider what happens to their estate when they die. To plan only for the future well-being of their loved ones.
But what about safeguarding your own future, in your lifetime? What happens if an accident or illness renders you mentally incapable of making decisions for yourself? The reality is this; accidents or illness can happen anytime, and the younger you are, the longer you may be affected by the consequences.
Not a dinner party topic perhaps. Still, it can be a relief to know you have some control over what happens if the unthinkable occurs. There are two legal concepts you should know about; Enduring Powers of Attorney (POA) and Enduring Guardianships (EG).
Appointing an enduring POA means choosing someone to make decisions about your financial affairs if and when you can’t. That means anything from paying bills and operating bank accounts, to buying and selling property. You can decide the extent of your POA’s decision-making power.
If you become incapacitated and don’t have a POA, the Guardianship Tribunal chooses one for you. This means of course, that any particular plans you had for investments, your home, gifts to help out family members financially etc, may not come to be. It’s uncommon for your spouse to be appointed by the Tribunal, and even if they are, it’s usually under supervision. That means they have to send accounts to the Tribunal, and get its approval for large transactions like property sales. It means uncertainty.
When it comes to health-care and lifestyle decisions, the legal solution is an EG. You might have a particular view about whether you’d like to be resuscitated following an accident that has resulted in brain damage. Or about medical treatment. Living arrangements.
In the case of EG’s, the law provides that a spouse will make decisions if you haven’t already appointed someone. But when it’s make-or-break decision time in an emergency room, having that signed EG form can mean the difference between doctors complying with your wishes or not.
Clearly you should only appoint people that you trust implicitly to act in your best interests. And keep in mind that for appointments to be legally binding, you have to be of sound mind when you make them. That means now, while you’re young and healthy.