Aged Care – Wills & Estate Planning

We can all take steps to simplify the management of our financial affairs, predetermine the type of health care we are comfortable with, and ensure our hard-earned assets are structured to our greatest advantage as we age.

Powers of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is a legal document authorising one or more trusted family members or friends to manage certain matters on your behalf for convenience, or if you are unable to do so yourself. The scope of authority is set out in the Power of Attorney document and may be limited to a one-off transaction or provide for a range of matters.

A General Power of Attorney is usually made for legal and financial matters and can operate for a limited period. For instance, an attorney may be authorised to sign contracts and act on your behalf to sell property while you are overseas. Once you return, and / or the property transaction is complete, the authority comes to an end.

More commonly, an Enduring Power of Attorney is granted if you want to ensure your financial and personal affairs are in the hands of those you trust should you lose mental capacity. In this case the attorneys may be authorised to manage your financial affairs (paying bills and selling property) and personal matters (including some health matters) and must carry out their duties in your best interests.

Advance Health Directives

An Advance Health Directive enables you to give directions about special health and personal matters when you can no longer make these decisions yourself. You can decide in advance the types of health treatment you will consent to and include appropriate directions. Directions may also be included about the use of life-sustaining measures for certain medical situations.

Don’t put things off!

You cannot grant a Power of Attorney or make an Advance Health Directive if you lack mental capacity. These documents are invaluable – they provide reassurance that your affairs will be left in the hands of those you trust when you can’t ‘speak’ for yourself and give certainty and simplify processes for those you have chosen to help you.

Aged care advice

It is important to understand the lifestyle, legal and financial implications when considering retirement village living or entry into an aged care facility. These decisions are often made with the assistance of family members and a legal / financial advisor.

Retirement villages are operated by private enterprises or community organisations with accommodation and service levels varying significantly between each. Laws in each state govern the relationship between operators and residents and set out the legal and disclosure requirements of operators.

Legal arrangements can include an outright purchase, loan-licence or leasehold agreement and the fees and charges can differ greatly. It is very important to understand the agreement that you are entering and plan accordingly.

Aged care is regulated and assessed under Commonwealth laws. Entry into a retirement village does not result in an automatic entitlement to aged care services. Aged care services are government funded and potential recipients must first be assessed.

Whether you are considering retirement village living or aged care services, meeting with a legal / financial advisor will help you to understand the type of arrangement you are entering, determine the most effective strategy for your circumstances and plan or restructure your financial affairs accordingly.

Some of the considerations your legal / financial team will discuss include:

  • assessing retirement living / aged care options in light of your needs and financial circumstances;
  • reviewing legal documents such as contracts, leases and service agreements;
  • investigating and explaining all fees and charges payable under the contemplated arrangements which may include wait list / holding deposits, ongoing contributions, maintenance, service and exit fees;
  • evaluating and explaining the impact the arrangements will have on your age pension and any other Centrelink benefits;
  • structuring your finances and assets to assist with means testing;
  • working with you to determine whether it is feasible / desirable to retain the family home and rent it out, or sell it;
  • advising on the impact these arrangements will have on your estate plan and, where necessary, updating your Will.

Managing and protecting your assets, ensuring your retirement and beyond is as comfortable and fulfilling as possible, and that future medical and lifestyle decisions reflect your values are important issues for all of us.

If you would like assistance in any of these areas, please contact us on 07 5545 1205 or email [email protected] to make an appointment to discuss your options and seek the benefit of expert legal advice.