Christmas is over and it’s time to start thinking about New Year’s resolutions. It’s a great time of year to get things organised so here’s some thoughts for items to put on your resolutions list.
First is an item for my fellow business owners. If you are a small business owner, do you have a plan in place for who would run the business if you were out of action for an extended period due to illness or injury? If you do have a plan, is it legally enforceable?
Many small businesses are run by a solo owner or a small team where business owner deals with the finances and running of the business while the staff work under their direction. While many businesses employ a bookkeeper to deal with the accounting, bookkeepers don’t usually have the authority to access the business accounts to pay wages or bills without the business owner or company director authorising the transactions. While you could outsource some of the work or a family member could get involved in the management of the business, it can be a lot more difficult for someone to take over the financial control of the business. A person appointed under an enduring power of attorney would have the legal authority to access to the business accounts if a sole director/sole trader were to be come incapacitated, so this is something you may want to think about putting in place if you are a business owner. If you have business partners, make sure you all agree on a plan and that it is covered by your partnership or shareholder agreement.
Second on the list is getting a plan in place for management of your personal affairs if you become injured or incapacitated. Who would pay the bills if you became incapacitated for an extended period or deal with Centrelink on your behalf if you couldn’t work? If there is no joint account holder or someone already authorised to discuss matters with Centrelink for you, it can be very difficult for someone to just step in and assist. If you have ever tried to contact the electricity company to discuss your bill, and your partners name is the only one on the account, you will know exactly how hard it is! An enduring power of attorney would give the attorney appointed the authority to deal with any financial matters on your behalf. You should also consider whether you need to appoint an enduring guardian, someone who could make medical or treatment decisions if you were unable to make decisions yourself. If there is someone in your life that you would trust more than anyone else to manage your medical and financial affairs on your behalf, make sure they have the legal authority to do so.
And finally, something we all need to tick off the list, making or updating a will. There is never a “good” estate to deal with as a solicitor, but I find the worst ones are always situations where someone has passed away without a valid will. While there is legislation in place to indicate how the estate should be distributed, more often than not, it is usually to the last person the deceased would want to benefit – an estranged family member for example. These situations can cause irreparable disputes between family members as well as potential additional costs for the estate. Save your loved ones from the potential hassles and make it your New Year’s resolution to do a will. If you already have a will, great! But it’s also a good time to read through it, check that it still does what you want it to do, and make sure everything is up to date.
Time to stop putting off those things that we always say we are going to do, but never actually follow through on. If you need any advice or assistance in estate planning matters, contact KC Hilton at WNB Legal, 0419 464 946.