Many New Zealanders don’t have a Will in place, and of those that do, we find fewer have established Enduring Powers of Attorney. These are vital to support our loved ones in a crisis, when they are unable to act for themselves through injury, illness, or maybe just being overseas and needing someone they trust to sign documents on their behalf.
The Brown Family
Charlie and Carol are in their mid-50s and have two children – Jake age 22 and Rebecca age 20. Jake and Rebecca are taking time out from their study to travel overseas together for 3-4 months, to see a bit of the world before returning to further study and work. Whilst in Europe, Jake has a serious accident and is hospitalised. Through Rebecca, Charlie and Carol find out Jake is unconscious, with traumatic internal injuries as well as broken bones. The doctors in the hospital are wanting to talk with an adult who has legal power to speak on Jake’s behalf, as they have treatment options they wish to discuss so decisions about ‘what next’ for Jake can be made. Jake is an adult and has not established any power of attorney to appoint anyone to do this ‘talking’ for him, about what he would want to happen for himself. Through a lot of emotional angst, Charlie and Carol find out from their lawyer that they have to apply to the courts to have them appointed as Jake’s attorney, which costs money and takes time – both of which they do not have in abundance.
As parents, no-one wants to hear of such an accident with our children, let alone go through the stress and delays of having to apply to the courts to obtain a power of attorney, before being able to agree a treatment plan with medical staff.
A simple solution is to ensure anyone over the age of 18, who may be in a position of needing someone to act on their behalf, to establish Enduring Powers of Attorney – one to delegate signing powers over bank accounts and other property matters, and another to assist with care and welfare decisions in the event of medical support being needed.
Jack and Vera White
Jack and Vera have recently retired and are enjoying life together. They travel, see family, volunteer for local organisations they are passionate about and socialise regularly with friends. They both own their home jointly and have a joint bank account too. Jack inherited some money a few years back from when his mother died, and he has this invested in a portfolio of shares and bonds in his own name. Vera has some cash in the bank in her own name, a legacy of savings she built up herself during her working life. They do receive the New Zealand State Superannuation however, they use money from Jack’s investment portfolio to top-up their lifestyle expenses, so Jack dips into this when they need it.
During a sunny day gardening together, Jack unfortunately suffered a stroke and lost the use of the right side of his body. Jack is right handed.
Jack is unable to sign anything and he may never recover sufficiently to do this with his right hand.
In the meantime however, they need to access money from Jack’s investment to help with this treatment, and to continue to top-up other expenses they incur. Jack and Vera never established Enduring Powers of Attorney, so Vera is unable to access any of the money in Jack’s portfolio to support their financial needs. Vera now has to visit their lawyer who will arrange to apply to the courts to try to have Vera appointed as Jack’s power of attorney – this takes time and money!
Enduring Powers of Attorney are for every adult, for many unfortunate situations. There are two types – one for Property and one for Care & Welfare; both are needed.
It is important that you consider the costs, time and stress involved in NOT having these in place and organise them sooner rather than later – protecting yourself and your family is such a worthwhile thing to do NOW.
Charlene Overell, G3 Financial Freedom Ltd