PROTECTING YOUR FAMILY – GETTING YOUR WILL RIGHT

Wynyard Wood Senior Solicitor KATRINA KENDALL explains why having up to date Wills and EPOAs can protect your family should the unexpected happen.

Most of us know somebody who has been affected by a family dispute over a will.  It happens even in the happiest (or apparently happiest) of families.  The resulting legal process is a very stressful one to endure.

The best way to minimise the chance of a family dispute after your death is to properly consider your affairs and complete a will that suits your circumstances.  In some cases (for example in blended family situations, or if you wish to treat your children differently), it may be appropriate to form a Family Trust.

It is important to consider any assistance you’ve given your children throughout your life, and whether you’d like to equalise those contributions after your death.  If you have any concerns about a child’s ability to manage an inheritance, or possible claims from their spouse or partner, you can take steps to offer that child more protection.  If you have a Family Trust or a business, you should also consider how those entities will be dealt with after you die.

With the complex, unique and sometimes colourful lives many people lead there is certainly no ‘one size fits all’ will format. Once you have completed your will, you should regularly review it and update it as necessary – things change!

 WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU ARE ALIVE BUT CAN’T MAKE DECISIONS FOR YOURSELF?

Life can be uncertain at times.  Anyone at any age can have a stroke or other serious illness, be involved in a vehicle or other accident or lose mental capacity.  There is no automatic ability for your next of kin to make decisions or sign on your behalf if you are not able to do so.  A marriage certificate doesn’t give your spouse that power!  The only documents which allow somebody else to manage your affairs if you are not able to do so yourself are called Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPOAs).

By setting up EPOAs you can give authority to a trusted person (or people) to act on your behalf and make decisions for you.  There are two types of EPOAs; one for Property and another for Personal Care and Welfare.  The ball is in your court as to the terms of the EPOAs – you can put suitable conditions or restrictions in place to ensure that your attorney’s actions are appropriate.

HOW DO YOU MAKE A WILL OR EPOA?

Your lawyer can help you in preparation of all these documents.  Having a will and EPOAs in place will work out to be less costly to you and your family than having to go through the Courts to resolve disputes or obtain appropriate orders.  It can be difficult deciding how you’d like to structure your affairs but chatting through different options with your lawyer who will have seen many different successful (and unsuccessful) structures can make it easier.

If you’d like to discuss anything in this article further, please contact our friendly team for expert advice to suit your unique requirements.