At the time when this article is written, there have been 74 confirmed cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) including 3 deaths in Australia, or 106,490 confirmed cases worldwide causing 3,600 deaths in total. It is expected that these numbers will continue to rise.

The outbreak of this “deadly” virus leads to social controversies such as panic buying of (or panic fighting over) toilet paper. It is concerning to hear news about people getting sick and at the same time heartbreaking to see our society torn.

Have you asked these questions?

  • “Will I catch it?”
  • “How do I avoid it?”
  • “What should I do if I do catch it?”

The purpose of this article is not to induce fear, but to discuss a few simple things which you can do to be prepared.

Legally, at least.

(1) Sign an “Enduring Power of Attorney” (EPOA)

It becomes a practical and real issue that no one else, except yourself, can access your bank account, when you are incapacitated due to sickness or other reasons. That’s right, not even your spouse or your children have the authority to even ask your bank a question on your behalf, unless you have appropriately authorized them. Who’s going to pay your phone bills or arrange to pay for your medication?

And what if you are involved in a traffic accident or contracted a serious illness (such as the coronavirus COVID-19), and someone needs to sign off for your operation – who would that be? If might be your spouse, but what if you don’t have one, or your spouse was also injured or ill?

That’s why you need to be prepared ahead of time – Appoint someone whom you trust as your “attorney” to make decisions for you. It can be your spouse, your children, your parents or your best friend.

You can do this by signing an EPOA.

The important key is this: you need to do this BEFORE your become incapacitated. Once you lose capacity, you are legally unable to sign a valid EPOA.

 (2) Sign an “Advance Health Directive” (AHD)

Alternatively, you may draw up an AHD.

An AHD is basically the more advanced and detailed version of an EPOA.

With an AHD, you may direct your attorney to make very specific health decisions for you. For example, you may refuse blood transfusion under an AHD.

What happens if I don’t have an EPOA or AHD?

If you lose capacity without an EPOA or AHD (but still breathing), your family members will have to apply to the Tribunal to be appointed legally by the Tribunal. Your family may apply to be your administrator or your guardian, or both, depending on your situation. Your administrator has power to deal with your financial affairs and your guardian has power to deal with your health and personal affairs.

The person applying will have to prove that he/she is a suitable and trusted person to make decisions on your behalf. That person must report regularly to the Tribunal for his/her actions and decisions.

It is stressful and is very expensive (high legal fees) to apply to the Tribunal. It is a lot cheaper and stress-free to be prepared.

Everyone in Australia ought to have an EPOA or AHD!

(3) Life Insurance/Superannuation

If you already have a life insurance policy, or life insurance policy within your superfund, check whether you have your beneficiaries correct and updated. Many people don’t remember who their beneficiaries are, or forget to update their beneficiaries after marriage or divorce.

Is your beneficiary still your former spouse? – not very good, is it?

You may instruct your superfund trustee who to receive your superannuation benefit upon death by completing a binding death benefit nomination. Make sure the nomination is valid and binding. Speak to your superfund consultant to ensure everything is in place correctly and accurately.

 (4) Sign a Will

This might be a bit too far-fetched for some people. There are too many reasons why we don’t have/want a Will.

  • I’m young and healthy – I won’t die any time soon.
  • I don’t have much assets – I don’t care.
  • I’m busy – I’ll do it later.
  • I don’t want to pay – my family will deal with it.
  • I don’t want to talk about death, it’s bad luck!

In fact, a Will is a basic and essential document that everyone should have despite of any viruses.

The reality is that your family pays the price, literally, if you don’t have a Will and pass away.

They will have to apply to the Court to have your Estate sorted out. It is very costly and tremendously burdensome for them, especially when they’re already going through an emotionally difficult time losing you.

Contrarily, if you have a Will, you should have the peace of mind that your assets and properties are going to the right people or organisation. You can be sure that your debts are appropriately paid from the correct financial source. You know that you have arranged your succession plan in an orderly manner. You know that your family is not likely (or less likely) to enter a chaotic period without you being around.

It’s all about your family. Be responsible and deal with your affairs yourself. Don’t leave your “mess” behind, at least not a financial one.

(5) In conclusion: What should you do now?

Be prepared and don’t panic. Be cautious and don’t be afraid. Be strong and courageous.

  • Draw up an EPOA or AHD.
  • Draw up a Will.
  • Wash your hands regularly.
  • Go to the hospital if you develop symtoms.

(6) Contact us if you need help!

These documents are critically important and they need to be drafted properly to be legally valid. If you need our assistance, contact us!

You can call us on 07 3344 2888 or email us at info@timeslawyers.com.au.

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