PLAN BEFORE YOU LEAP

Sophie Cohen

We have all heard of the plumber who has leaking taps, the doctor who ignores the heart attack symptoms, and the accountant who is late with his tax returns. Well, I have an embarrassing confession to make. I am the estate planning lawyer who does not have a current will or enduring power of attorney in place. Recently divorced with four teenage children, my own business, and multiple entities, I am the ultimate estate planning war story waiting to happen.

I get it. Talking about your own demise is not exactly an uplifting topic. Balancing the interests of a blended family raises curly issues. Thinking about who will take care of your young kids if something happens to you is scary. Appointing others to make decisions for you makes you feel vulnerable. It is so easy to put your estate plan in the too hard basket or at the bottom of your ‘to do’ list.

The stupidity of my inertia struck me just as I was about to jump out of a plane at 14,000 feet a couple of weeks ago. Strapped into a harness and tethered to my instructor, crazy thoughts raced through my head. My life did not flash before my eyes, but a whole lot of estate planning regrets sure did.

Could I video record my instructions whilst in free fall? Does the pilot have a pen I could use to scrawl my testamentary wishes on the interior wall of the plane? But who would step in to administer my estate? I wouldn’t have a testamentary trust in place for the kids. An informal will wouldn’t deal with my non-estate assets like my family trust, and my superannuation death benefits. How would anyone know what I want to happen with my business? What if I don’t die but I am incapacitated? Who would apply to VCAT to be appointed my administrator and guardian and deal with all that red tape? If only I’d put a testamentary trust will, enduring powers of attorney, and binding nominations in place, dealing with such a tragedy would be that little bit easier for my loved ones.

Stay tuned for updates over the coming weeks as I work through the issues in my own estate plan, and don’t let skydiving be the kick up the bum you need to get your estate plan in order.

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