Residential care subsidy thresholds, trusts and gifting

Increasing numbers of elderly New Zealanders are going into residential care and seeking the government’s residential care subsidy. The legislation governing the subsidy is the Residential Care and Disability Support Services Act 2018, and the assessment procedure is overseen by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD).

To receive the subsidy, applicants must satisfy three MSD criteria:

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Grandparent wills

Grandparents often want to give some financial assistance to their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. There can be a number of good reasons for making specific provision for grandchildren in your will or through a family trust. The traditional will-drafting practice is for parents to provide for each other and then when both of them have died, they provide for their children, on the assumption that their children will then in turn acquire assets and provide for grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

First, there is often, in practice, no such provision for grandchildren and great-grandchildren by will-makers. In many cases, the will-maker’s children receive their inheritance and either spend it or provide for their partners or spouses. Little, or sometimes nothing, trickles down to grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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The executor of your will

Making a good choice

Having an executor of your will is like having a manager of your affairs (your estate) after your death. Your executor is named in your will; it is his or her role to carry out the terms of your will. Many people have more than one executor; it spreads the load and it’s also good to have another executor to discuss things with.

Who do you choose?

You can choose anyone to be your executor, but they do need some special qualities. You should consider:

Age: you want them to have the energy, ability and maturity to deal with your affairs. Sometimes this can be a fine balance – if you have someone older there’s a risk they could die before you or could become incapable of fulfilling their duties. However, someone younger may not have sufficient life experience to cope with the role.

Temperament: dealing with an estate can be quite emotional. You want your executors to be calm, steady, decisive and with loads of common sense.

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No enduring power of attorney?

It’s a time-consuming and expensive process if you don’t have an EPA

Most people are now aware of the importance of having an enduring power of attorney (EPA). If you are unable to make decisions for yourself at any stage (either temporarily or longer term) it is important there is someone in place to act on your behalf. What happens to you, and your family situation, if you have no EPA?

epa

Ensuring you have EPAs (for property and for your health and welfare) is a very important part of keeping your personal affairs in order. An EPA can be used if you are out of the country for a long time and you need someone to keep an eye on your financial affairs, or if you become mentally incapacitated and cannot look after your property or yourself.

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Make sure you have a will

Gives comfort to your family

New Zealanders need to find time to sit down and make sure they have a will. We all know this is important but how many of us don’t get around to it? Recent research by the Commission for Financial Capability has shown that only 47% of Kiwi adults have a will and the figures are worse for women, Māori and Pasifika. This survey of 2,000 New Zealanders found that only 44% of women have wills compared with 51% of men. These statistics are concerning when you consider the devastating effects that not having a will can have on your family.

Will

Why should you have a will?

A will is often described as your final letter to your family. We agree with this but would add that your will is a legal document that gives instructions on what you want to happen to your personal assets after your death. Your will can also include matters such as the appointment of guardians for your children, what happens to any family heirlooms, whether you would like to be buried or cremated, or even who you would like to look after your beloved pet. Your will can relieve financial and emotional strain on your family, and help minimise the likelihood of disputes about your estate.

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Retirement village life

The upside (and downside) of downsizing

New Zealand’s ageing population has created a boom for retirement villages, with record numbers being developed. For many looking to retire or slow down, retirement village living is attractive – and it’s not hard to see why. A new apartment or cottage in a secure, well-maintained environment, offering a lock-up-and-leave lifestyle, and providing resort-like facilities such as cafes, gyms, pools, bowling greens, libraries and men’s sheds can be very appealing.

Many clients tell us how happy they are to have made the move, some even say they wish they had done it sooner, but retirement village living is not for everyone. It’s important to think carefully about what this move means for you – both financially, and in terms of your current and future needs.

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Validating imperfect wills

What can be done?

For wills to be valid they must comply with a number of legal formalities; they must be in writing and there must be two witnesses who must attest to the will-maker signing the will in their presence.

However, some people create their own wills that do not comply with these formalities and these wills could be invalid. Sometimes people will express what they want to happen to their property after their death in an electronic document, such as a text message.

Since 2007 the High Court has had power to validate these documents so that they have the effect of being a valid will, even though they do not comply with the legal requirements of the Wills Act 2007.

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How do I bring my trust to an end?

The process

It has been estimated that there are between 300,000-500,000 trusts in this country. Trusts have been established for many different reasons, including estate planning, creditor protection, to ensure access to rest home subsidies, tax benefits or for protection from relationship property claims.

When the reason for a having a trust is no longer valid (there’s more on this on our article Do I still need a trust? here), it is important to bring it to an end in the most appropriate way bearing in mind the powers in the trust deed and the needs of all the beneficiaries.

This article explores the two most common ways that trusts can be brought to an end – bringing forward the date of distribution (the trust’s expiry date) and distributing all the trust assets to beneficiaries.

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Inherited debt? What if your parents die broke?

When you hear the word ‘inheritance’, what is your first thought? Is it positive or negative? Do you think about what you could receive from your parents, or what you might pass on to your children? Answers will vary, but generally the term ‘inheritance’ carries positive connotations. The Oxford Dictionary defines an ‘inheritance’ as ‘a thing that is inherited’. More helpfully, Wikipedia defines it as ‘the practice of passing on property, titles, debts, rights, and obligations upon the death of an individual’.

For this article, however, we’re focussing on ‘debts’ rather than actual things. What happens when your parents die broke? Can you inherit a debt?

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Making sure your loved one is mentally capable when signing their will

What does it mean to have ‘mental capacity’ when it comes to signing a will or an important legal document? This has recently become a hot topic, with new case law shining some much-needed light on the subject. It’s also something that families need to be aware of as their loved ones age.

Mental Incapacity

Mental capacity, as a concept, seems straightforward and self-explanatory. Common sense would suggest that if there is even a slight question as to a will-maker’s capacity, an assessment should be carried out to ensure they fully understand the provisions in their will, as well as the possible consequences that could arise from them.

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