Succession planning has always interested me.  I am not a legal eagle nor do I work in the legal field.  However, Classic Moves does have an association with the legal fraternity when we are engaged to assist with property or estate clearances.

Succession planning put simply means ensuring you have organised or documented your instructions for either you to manage until death or that you have nominated a responsible person to take charge of your decision making in the advent that you are no longer able.

Perhaps the reason for my interest in succession planning has more to do with my professional working life, initially working in Intensive Care Unit, and later as an Aged Care and Community Nurse.   I have been a strong advocate of people empowering themselves, by making life decisions while healthy and competent and informing those how they would like their medical and financial affairs managed when they are no longer able.  Often at both a personal and profession level, I have observed families and individuals grapple with the task of making decisions on behalf of a loved one, after an adverse event has occurred.  At such time, decisions often lack clarity and judgment and can be further compromised if there is no documentation to guide you.

I was the guest speaker at a Men’s Probus club recently.  I was asked to address the audience on hints and tips for downsizing. [PDF available on website]  At the conclusion of the talk, I asked for a show of hands who had a current Last Will and Testament.   Eighty per cent of the audience indicated they had this in hand.  I then asked who had both an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPOA) – Medical and Financial.  These are two separate documents, one being an EPOA – Medical, the other being an EPOA – Financial.  Thirty per cent of the audience indicated that they had these documents.  This response did not surprise me, as anecdotally, the oversight to have these two documents in place is what I have gathered from the many clients I have met over the past 7 years through my business.

What surprises me however is that there appears to be lack of understanding about what an EPOA – Financial document means.  In layman’s terms, it is a document you instruct your solicitor to write while you are competent and able to give clear instructions, in which you nominate a responsible person or persons of your choosing to make decisions for the ongoing management and administration of your finances while you are still alive.

An Enduring Power of Attorney – Medical is a document you instruct your solicitor to write, again, while you are competent, nominating a person or persons to make health and medical decisions on your behalf should an adverse event occur and you are not able to make these decisions, for example, if a medical emergency or trauma caused you to sustain a life threatening injury and you were placed on ventilated life support.  Alternatively, an Enduring Power of Attorney – Medical is quintessential for those whose cognition is declining due to dementia related diseases.

As a disincentive to having an Enduring Power of Attorney document drawn up, I have heard people say that they feel their power is eroded, that they are scared that the nominated person will misuse their money or that they will be admitted into an aged care facility against their will.  My response to all these claims is to consider nominating a third party to act as your Administrator, in other words, someone who will make impartial decisions, taking into account your individual circumstances.  There are many public and private Trustee Companies that for a fee manage the financial and medical affairs of their clients.

In the case where your medical practitioner has assessed you not to have competency and you do not have any EPOA’s in place, a Guardian will be appointed to manage your financial and medical issues.  In Victoria, the decision to appoint a Guardian is made by the Victorian Administrative Tribunal  (VCAT) and the findings are legally binding.

If you are the amongst the percentage that does not have an Enduring Power of Attorney – Medical and Financial, “do yourself a favour”… as the sage in the Akubra hat, Molly Meldrum, used to say … and organise a visit to meet with your solicitor and discuss your options.   Incidentally, I wonder if ‘our music legend’ had such documents in place, seeing that he had so long when other people needed to make decisions for him, after his near fatal fall off his house roof last Christmas Eve.

In summary, throughout our lives we make continuous plans and arrangements in all areas of our lives: where we will live to what school we send our children, where we will work, even when we retire.  Succession planning is a part of that decision-making continuum, ensuring that we nominate those, in whom we trust, to act on our behalf when we no longer are able, in the spirit and knowledge of the person that they once knew.  For me, knowing that both my Enduring Power of Attorney – Medical & Financial are in place, is empowerment.

Author Heather Wallach
Director Classic Moves