• co-founder Jenni Perkins

Will your wishes be known?

Future planning often drops to the bottom of the to do list, but you run the risk of your financial, life and treatment choices not being known if your circumstances suddenly change and you are no longer able to make your own decisions.

Most people are aware of the need to appoint an Enduring Power of Attorney to ensure people they trust have the authority to make financial decisions on their behalf. However, an Enduring Power of Attorney only relates to financial decisions and doesn't include the authority to make personal, lifestyle and treatment decisions.

An Enduring Power of Guardianship enables you to appoint someone to make personal, lifestyle and treatment decisions, on your behalf, if circumstances arise where you are no longer capable of making your own decisions. Your appointed guardian could make decisions such as, where you might live, the support services that you receive or who provides your care. Also, an Advance Health Directive enables you to communicate decisions about your health care in advance.

In circumstances where a person has not put in place an Enduring Power of Attorney or Guardianship then an application can be made to the State Administrative Tribunal to appoint an approved administrator to manage a person's financial and personal affairs. This process can take some time.

This week I was reminded of the time I learnt the hard way of the perils of not having in place provision for Enduring Power of Attorney and Guardianship. At our recent book club meeting a friend shared her frustration, as a social worker at a busy public hospital, with the number of elderly people, with reduced decision making capacity, without an Enduring Power of Guardianship. These people are remaining in hospital for long periods of time, sometimes for than 100 days, while the hospital establishes the authority to move them into more suitable care arrangements.

This reminded me of my own experience when my older brother at age 72 had a massive stroke, leaving him with significant disability. With my other two brothers and myself being the only family (and none of us living in the same state) we immediately came face to face with the challenge of putting in place an Enduring Power of Attorney and Guardianship so we could manage my brother’s affairs on his behalf.

This proved very challenging and involved multiple attempts to have a solicitor visit the hospital to obtain the relevant approvals at his bedside. The alternative was to seek guardianship through the NSW legal process, which may have taken at least four weeks.

In the meantime decisions were required to help manage my brother’s affairs and his future care. We had no authority, for example, to complete the Centrelink income assessment form required for residential aged care; to arrange for my brother’s mail to be redirected; or access my brother’s bank account to pay his bills.

The moral of the story – start planning early and put in place provisions for your future care with people that you trust in case you are not able to make your own decisions.

Make sure that you not only have an up to date Will in place, but also arrangements for Enduring Power of Attorney, Guardianship and Advance Health Directive, according to the state law in your state of residence.

Having these in place can help ensure better outcomes for you and save a lot of angst for those who are trying to look after you.

Go to Live Well Longer free resource ‘Enduring Power of Attorney and other Decision-Making Provisions’.

Become a member to access our full range of free practical resources.