Article written by Kelly Owens
Over 18 and haven’t got a Will or Power of Attorney yet? Now is the time to formulate your contingency plan. Got them sorted already but need them updating? We are your people. Think it won’t happen to you? That’s why they’ve labelled it a Pandemic.
Why Make a Will?
A Will is a legal document which sets out how you want your estate to be upon your death. It is legally binding, and without it, your assets will be administered according to a formula set out by the law and may not align with your, or your families’ wishes.
Why Make a Power of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney is a legal document authorising a person to act on another person’s behalf, whether it be to make personal, legal or financial decisions. If you are a company, you can authorise specific people to give effect to the decisions made by directors.
Nobody is immune from coronavirus. You or a loved one may fall ill, or be required to self-isolate, so having a Non-enduring Power of Attorney will allow someone to act on your behalf whilst you are in hospital, or house bound.
Given the powers granted by this document, you should discuss its implications and your options with a lawyer and give it careful thought.
When to Make a Will and Power of Attorney
As soon as you hit 18, provided you have the mental capacity to understand what you are doing, you can make a Will and Power of Attorney.
If you have not made a Will or Power of Attorney yet, with these unprecedented, rapidly evolving and in some cases, deadly, times, there is no time like the present to get your affairs in order, before they become futile and urgent.
Generally speaking, an existing Will should be reviewed every 2 years or each time you complete a tax return. A Will should also be updated when there is a name change, marriage/divorce or separation, birth or death, money is inherited or lost, or there is a significant change to your personal circumstances, such as Covid-19.
Logistics during Covid-19
In Victoria, a person signing a Will needs to be in the presence of 2 witnesses, and these people may be in self-isolation at home with you. When signing a Power of Attorney, this needs to be physically witnessed by 2 people; a lawyer or person authorised to take statutory declarations and another witness. Our lawyers can attend to this whilst observing strict social distancing and quarantine restrictions.
We have been able to manage our clients’ affairs remotely and efficiently during this time, where perhaps support is most needed. Whilst face to face in-office meetings are not currently possible, we can use telephone or video conferencing appointments where necessary and there are creative ways to execute these important documents. Whether it be drive-by Will signing, through the window witnessing, or meeting at a central location outdoors, will ensure we do what it takes to get the job done whilst we await an update from Parliament regarding alternative ways of signing legal documents. Stay tuned for future updates on a potential temporary introduction of video witnessing during this pandemic.
If you are in self isolation, we recommend you sign and date your Will in the absence of one or both of the necessary witnesses, and e-mail your lawyer to advise them you have signed your Will informally, until you are a position to have it formally executed.
If you need a basic Will and don’t have many assets, you can head over to our wills partner at www.yourwills.com.au. If you have an existing Will, or a complex, vast estate contact John Mapleston on 03 9600 2450 for a free 15 minute consultation to discuss your options.