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A Grim (not so) Fairy Tale

Wills & Probate

A Grim (not so) Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, we’re told

The path was set as we grew old

Comfort till the day we pass

Family firmly next to us

Nowadays we’re not so sure

Better plan for something more

Have we planned as best we might?

Or have we made an oversight?

Wordsworth(less)

Prior to 1987, it was just assumed that hospitals and other medical/life care providers should just deal with our next of kin (often the spouse or children) when we had become incapacitated.

In 1987, Appointments of Enduring Guardian (AEGs) were introduced in New South Wales. These have enabled us to nominate who we want to make life and medical decisions for us when we cannot make them for ourselves. AEGs are particularly useful in blended family situations where there may be a conflict between the new spouse and ‘earlier’ children in relation to these decisions. And we are all aware that there are many blended families in our community.

A recent awful situation with which we have been involved has emphasised the importance of AEGs (quite apart from the increasing requests from hospitals to see that these documents have been made).

A lady, who has been living with her partner of many years, had a short series of strokes and is now dependent upon life support measures. The partner is, understandably, emotionally unable to ‘let her go’ which is contrary to the wish of her siblings. The partner also appears to have a ‘right to life’ philosophy and feels more comfortable being able to visit what he perceives to be a living spouse, notwithstanding that the spouse is lying daily oblivious to any appreciation of life.

Without her having made an AEG – and without appointing a person of compatible views on the subject of existing in a vegetative state (once having told her sister that under no circumstances was she ever to live like that) – her future has been placed in the hands of public agencies who have refused to make the decision to let her pass peacefully.

This is not so much criticism of the partner or the public agencies. It should be each of us who take responsibility for making clear our intentions if such a situation was to arise.

The morals of the story are:

  1. Make an AEG – do not consider them to be just another piece of paper;
  • In doing so, appoint a person who will carry out your wishes rather than his/her wishes. That person may not always be the partner;
  • Consider also making an Advance Care Directive (often called a “living Will”).

Please call the estate planning team to discuss this and other important estate planning aspects.

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