There are four legal documents I see as essential to most people's lives. They are:
1. A Will;
2. Enduring Powers of attorney;
3. Family trust; and
4. Relationship property agreements.
They operate at different times during a life. Sometimes they can be extremely important, and at other times less so. The trick is to make sure you do have them when they are needed
When is the right time for a will?
A will should be done from the time someone has any assets, or family responsibilities.
A will states what you want to happen to your property when you die. Without one, the law deals with your property in a predetermined way, which is almost always different from what you would intend, and may cause hardship to your family. Signing a will avoids that. Without one, there is also more cost to the family.
Most people make more than one will during their life, as their circumstances change. It depends what is going on in your life, and who you want to benefit when you die.
For people with property, who do not have an up-to-date will, I suggest you go and make one.
What about powers of attorney?
There are two types of “enduring” powers of attorney for while you are alive. They cover property, and personal care and welfare. “Enduring”, means they continue to have effect if you lose your ability to act for yourself. That can happen to anyone at any time.
In an ideal world, everyone should have enduring powers of attorney, however, they becomes essential as people approach old age, because of the increased possibility of no longer be able to look after their own affairs.
If something goes wrong with you, and you haven’t given power of attorney to someone, life can become very difficult and expensive for you, and the people who have to look after you.
If you don’t have powers of attorney, I urge you to give them serious consideration.
There are about 8 reasons why people form trusts. I shall cover these on another occasion, but they have all to do with keeping assets safe. At different times of a productive life they can be useful for different reasons. For most people, they are worth looking into.
Relationship property agreements.
People may need to have an agreement about their rights to property at the commencement of a relationship; often at the end of a relationship, and sometimes in the middle. Relationship property agreements can work well with family trusts.
Not taking the step of signing an agreement which deals with relationship property, can be very costly for a person who has assets; as they can be lost.
If you have assets which you want to protect, then it may be time to look at whether a relationship property agreement will help you.