The importance of estate planning is most clearly seen when unforseen circumstances occur.
While it is almost certain that you will die (unless you are a deity), how you die is unpredictable. For example transport related deaths account for 1,477 fatalities in Australia, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The leading cause of death in Australia is heart disease, which in many cases results in sudden deaths.
It is likely that until the moment of their death, many of those who died in transport related accidents or from heart disease assumed they would live another day, and never considered estate planning.
This is why it is so important to think ahead regarding your assets and how you want your family to be taken care of should unforseen circumstances occur.
An example of how important estate planning is the case of actor Heath Ledger who is reported to have failed to include his daughter in his will. There are many reports about this on the web.
Unforseen circumstances affecting your estate are not limited to death. Non-lethal conditions such as serious head injuries can prevent you from managing your own affairs. Bills can be paid and medical decisions can be made by someone who has been nominated as your power of attorney if you are suffering from an illness that takes away your capacity for decision making. If you fail to nominate someone to act as your attorney, decisions affecting your life, for example what treatment you receive or decisions about your finances, could be made by someone who you do not completely trust or you might consider to have poor judgement.
By ensuring that you have engaged in estate planning and executed a will that is up-to-date and tailored for all foreseeable circumstances, your family members can rest assured that they will not have to become involved in potentially expensive and distressing legal proceedings. Similarly you can be secure in the knowledge that if something happens to you it will be the person you choose who will have management of your affairs.
You can also appoint an enduring Guardian to make decisions about your medical care. This is very important when you may lose capacity to make sensible decisions yourself.
To talk to an experienced wills and estates lawyer to discuss estate planning tailored to your circumstances and needs - call Dominic Wilson on 02 8268 4000.