Living Wills For Young People
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It is estimated that around half of Australian adults do not have a current will. The reasons for this vary from people believing they do not need a will, not understanding the importance of a will or simply because they feel they are too young to have a will at this stage of their life.
It is no surprise, then, that the percentage of young people in Australia who have a living will is drastically lower. A ‘living will’ is another term for a document which can form part of estate planning. The two most common “living will” documents are an Enduring Power of Attorney and an Advanced Health Directive. Less than 20% of all Australians have one or both of these in place.
The reason these documents are often referred to as ‘living wills’ is because they are effective during a person’s lifetime, rather than taking effect after the person has passed away.
Here’s why it is so important to consider implementing an Enduring Power of Attorney or Advanced Health Directive as a young person.
What are Enduring Powers of Attorney?
Enduring Powers of Attorney are needed in order to grant another person the ability to legally make decisions with regard to your assets and finances. If a young person suffers a serious medical episode such as a stroke or has an accident which deems them incapable of making and communicating their own decisions, then an existing Enduring Power of Attorney will come into effect so that the appointed person can act on behalf of the individual as their attorney and deal with their financial affairs.
The types of financial affairs an attorney may carry out includes paying bills or dealing with the bank to make transactions. To this end, it is imperative that when appointing an attorney you are absolutely certain you can trust them to make financial decisions on your behalf.
What Happens If I Don’t Have An Enduring Power Of Attorney?
If you were to lose the ability to make decisions for yourself (for example, you have an accident and end up in a coma), a family member, relative, friend or your lawyer or accountant may be able to fulfil the role as an administrator (for financial decisions) or and/or guardian (for personal/health decisions). However, without an enduring power of attorney appointing them to do so, they would need to lodge an application to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) to be appointed as one or both.
This process can be a time-consuming and costly process, which is why it’s important to have something in place before such an event may happen. An enduring power of attorney will help alleviate some of the stress of your loved ones if you were to ever lose capacity.
What are Advance Health Directives?
An Advanced Health Directive comes into effect if a person loses the legal capacity to make their own decisions in relation to their medical treatment and general care. You can also appoint an individual to act as your decision-maker on health matters and other personal arrangements relating to your care and lifestyle via an Advanced Health Directive and outline any wishes you have relating to your death. In addition, an Advanced Health Directive allows an individual to specify medical outcomes they would like to avoid and any treatments they do not wish to receive.
Having either, or both, an Enduring Power of Attorney or Advanced Health Directive in place affords you a sense of security, so you know that if you should suddenly fall ill or have an accident and are not able to make decisions for yourself, your wishes will be known and decisions will be made by someone you have selected who has your best interests at heart.
If you would like to have an Enduring Power of Attorney or Advanced Health Directive prepared or you would like more information on how these documents work, our wills and estates lawyers in Cairns can assist. Contact us today for a fixed fee quote.