Do not wait until it is too late! To ensure that your hard-earned assets are, to the fullest extent possible, safeguarded against unexpected coronavirus attack, please contact one of our expert Estate Planning Lawyers to discuss your personal circumstances today.
COVID-19 (“coronavirus”) is one of the most deadly viruses of the modern age. There is currently no vaccine, its outbreak has caused worldwide upheaval in health and welfare, the economy, the stock market and personal and business finances for all Australians. The current level of fear and uncertainty has not been experienced since before the Great Depression.
Our Estate Planning Lawyers are being inundated with questions from families and business owners about what they should be doing to better prepare themselves amidst this worldwide crisis. Our response to those questions is simple. If you do not have a tailored estate plan, now is time to get one. If you do have an estate plan, now is the time to review it, to ensure that it properly caters for your testamentary intentions, should the unimaginable happen.
The reasons are simple:-
- If a key household member was to contract the coronavirus, it can often lead to bills not being paid, financial affairs not being set in order and significant and debilitating loss of health (particularly in persons that are over 60 years of age). Where an infected person needs hospitalisation and cannot speak for themselves. In this scenario:
- Doctors and medical staff are reluctant or unwilling to take instructions about treatment from anyone other than a duly appointed Attorney for personal/health matters;
- An Advanced Health Directive can also give those doctors and medical staff (as well as any appointed Attorneys) calculated directions about what the affected person requires or desires for treatment; and
- A duly appointed Attorney for financial matters will also be able to manage finances, pay bills, assist businesses and keep financial affairs in order during such a time.
- For most business owners, they are too focused on day-to-day operations to have ever considered the financial loss that could be suffered if they were incapacitated and not able to continue operations. Properly drafted business succession plans, including (without limitation) shareholder and/or unitholder agreements, partnership agreements, joint venture agreements and/or buy sell agreements with tailored provisions to deal with the death, total and permanent disablement, trauma or prolonged incapacity of a key member of the business are vital. These arrangements are often funded by insurance policies that, when triggered, allow an injection of funds that could mean the difference between continued operations and business failure until the owner is well enough to return or, in the event of their death, their affairs are set in order.
- Business interruption, income protection and life insurance are other critical considerations for all employees, contractors and other workers to keep an income stream coming in each week to manage mortgages and other debts, where a person with the coronavirus is unable to continue to work for a prolonged period (especially where sick leave or other entitlements are exhausted or not applicable).
- Wills, Powers of Attorney, Binding or Non-Binding Death Benefit Nominations and other estate planning documents that were made several years ago may name persons as executors, trustees, guardians of minor children, choice of beneficiaries or otherwise that were appropriate back then, but due to the passing of time, may not be so appropriate now. Contingency plans, even as far down as “Plan C”, which can often involve a will having testamentary bequests down two generations, are recommended.
- Marriage, separation, children, property transactions, establishment of businesses, companies, trusts or otherwise will have an effect on a Will that was made prior to such an occurrence. In particular:-
- In the context of marriage, section 14 of the Succession Act 1981 (Qld) (“Act”) provides that unless a Will is expressly made in its contemplation, then marriage automatically revokes a will.
- In the context of divorce, section 15 of the Act provides that divorce or annulment of marriage:-
- Revokes any appointment as executor, trustee or guardian or any power of appointment in favour of the former partner;
- Revokes any beneficial interest under the Will;
- Does not revoke the appointment of the former spouse as trustee of property left to beneficiaries that are also that former spouse’s children. It also does not revoke the power of any appointment in favour of the former partner that is exercisable in favour of children of whom the former spouse is also a parent.
In addition, where you were (or have been) unfortunate enough to contract the coronavirus, you need to make sure that your other family members know what to do and have all of the appropriate information that they require in the event of your incapacity or even death.
We often recommend to our clients that they should create a database that will assist any Attorney or Executor with managing or dealing with your affairs, including (without limitation):-
- Critical passwords, email addresses, social media account information (personal and business) and other sensitive information;
- The location of your estate planning documents (and copies);
- Important contact information, such as your appointed solicitor, doctor, accountant and other professional advisors, immediate family and next of kin details (including names of Executors, appointed Attorneys);
- Business or personal financial documents, such as bank statements, superannuation, taxation, Centrelink, Medicare, and private health insurance documentation;
- A summary list of your monthly bills and expenditure and to whom regular payments of any mind are made.
This database can then be stored in a safe deposit box, or electronically encrypted and protected, with instructions given to your Executors and Attorneys as to how to access same.
As a nation, we have seen how rapidly the coronavirus has escalated in our country and around the world. At Marino Law, we are constantly reminding our clients to exercise forward thinking and prepare for the worst by remembering their business succession and personal estate planning.
To ensure that your hard-earned assets are, to the fullest extent possible, safeguarded against unexpected coronavirus attack, please contact one of our expert Estate Planning Lawyers to discuss your personal circumstances today. Do not wait until it is too late.