25 March 2020
At the time of reading this article, the nation will be on lock-down for four weeks and, for the most part, confined to our homes. In these uncertain times, there are measures you can take to provide some much-needed peace of mind.
Powers of Attorney
If you are unable to leave your home appointing someone to sign documents, or make decisions on your behalf, might be helpful. It is relatively simple to put in place a general power of attorney, which will allow someone to sign documents on your behalf, and deal with your property. Unlike enduring powers of attorney, they cannot be used if you become mentally incapable. You might consider appointing a close friend, your accountant or your lawyer. Powers of attorney are relatively simple to sign, and can usually be sent to you to sign at home.
Enduring Powers of Attorney
If you are concerned about who will make decisions about your health and manage your finances (if you cannot), putting in place enduring powers of attorney (EPA) for your personal care and welfare and property would be prudent. Your attorney would be empowered to make decisions for you. Hand in hand with an EPA for personal care and welfare is an advance directive. This sets out in advance, medical treatment wanted or not wanted in the event you become unwell in the future.
Although there are witnessing requirements for these documents, video conferencing such as Skype or Zoom may help. If you do not know how to use video conferencing talk to your family or support network about how to set it up. If you do not have access to the internet, you can still telephone your lawyer to see how they can help.
Please be aware that if you have been appointed an attorney under an EPA for personal care and welfare, you cannot make significant decisions on behalf of the donor unless the document is activated. To do that, a qualified health practitioner must sign a certificate. We can explain the process.
Making your final wishes known in a will is important for all Kiwis. You should ensure you get proper advice from a lawyer who specialises in this area. Wills are not necessarily simple documents and can cover many issues, such as: blended families, guardianship, trusts for minors or persons incapable, life interests and overseas assets. There are stringent witnessing requirements for wills, however, we can advise you on a pragmatic approach to address this.
We’re here to help
You may have one or more of the above documents in place. If so, it is still prudent to review them every so often, to ensure they still reflect your wishes. Now is the time to pull them out of your filing system to check them.
This article may raise a number of queries. Please contact us, the team is happy to help.
Bryce Williams leads the elder and succession law team at Gibson Sheat Lawyers. You can contact the team on 0800 55 44 66 or (04) 569 4873, via an online query or you can email Bryce at firstname.lastname@example.org