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Don't Get Caught Out Like Bob & Mary!

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Ben Coleman
01-Feb-2016
Asset planning, People

If you are reading this then you’re not dead.  That’s a good thing!  Bear with me for a few moments and let me tell you a short story.

Bob and Mary Jones were a nice couple, starting to think about retirement although it was still some years away.  Their three kids had grown up and left home and were starting lives of their own.   Things were looking pretty good for Bob and Mary.

Bob had been at the same job for most of his working life, he was making a reasonable income and Mary worked a part-time job.  They didn’t have much in the way of savings but they were starting to think about putting a few assets together for their retirement.  Life was going well.

One Friday morning, Bob woke up and he wasn’t one hundred percent.  He went to work but got a bit worse during the course of the day.  Like most blokes, he just assumed it would come right.  It didn’t.  Bob was having trouble focusing, he was starting to slur his words, and he lost a fair bit of feeling down the left side of his body.  Mary finally persuaded him to go to the doctor and on the Monday he went to his GP who referred him onto the hospital, and long story short Bob had a fairly significant stroke, it hadn’t rendered him unconscious, but the effects had grown because the matter hadn’t been attended to and he was now permanently incapacitated.

The worst part about it was Bob’s thinking was very confused, he couldn’t make decisions and had trouble understanding just the simple everyday things of life.  Mary was devastated, Bob obviously could not return to work, she had to give up her part-time job because she was needed at home to look after Bob and their whole world had turned upside down.

A few days later, she went to the bank to organise some payments out of Bob’s account, he was always the one who handled the money, only to learn that she couldn’t operate that account unless she had an Enduring Power of Attorney given to her by Bob prior to him having the stroke.  Whoops!

Mary rang their family solicitor only to learn that she now had to make an application to the Court to be appointed as a Manager for Bob.  Her lawyers were more than happy to do that work on Mary’s behalf.  However it took quite a long time, another lawyer had to be appointed to look into Bob’s situation, reports had to be provided to the Court but eventually, Mary was appointed as Bob’s Manager.  Fantastic!  Well not quite, under the terms of the Court order, Mary has to report to the Court every couple of years or so, she has to provide accounts and various other things.  Not to mention that their lawyers’ bill was in some thousands of dollars.  Because she and Bob had a few assets about them, she also had to pay for the lawyer who had been appointed to look into Bob’s situation.  All of this was expensive, stressful, time consuming and, entirely needless.  The only people who benefited from the process were the lawyers.

That’s pretty much the end of the story but the point is that nobody, in the absence of a crystal ball, can predict what is going to happen in the future.  A motor accident, a stroke, a debilitating disease, or simply the ravages of old age can all result in an individual being put in a place where they cannot make their own decisions.  Without an Enduring Power of Attorney in regards to both property and welfare, then a Court order has to be applied for with all of the attendant time, stress and expense.

So I guess the choice is yours.  On the one hand, you can simply say “Well I’ll take my chances and I will maintain all of my faculties up until the time I shuffle off.”  On the other hand, you can say “Well, let’s look into this, see what the cost is going to be if putting Enduring Powers of Attorney in place while we are still able to and at least in that way, we know that if something happens to one of us, the other can step in straight away.

Don’t forget also that Enduring Powers of Attorney can also include other people such as children etc if one spouse has already died or cannot carry out the attorney’s powers.  All in all, it’s actually not a very expensive way to safeguard your future in terms of dealing with your property and your care and ensuring that what you want is what happens.

Something to think about!