Legal documents signed during lockdown

Best to sign again after lockdown to avoid later complications

During the Covid lockdown, special rules applied to the signing of some legal documents. Obviously it was, and is, not possible to have your signature witnessed by someone outside your bubble in Levels 3 and 4. So the law allowed signing over audio-visual link (AVL) and other similar arrangements. While these documents will remain valid in the future, it may be wise to have wills and enduring powers of attorney (EPAs) signed out of lockdown to avoid any time-consuming queries later on.

Many legal documents need to be signed in a particular way or before a particular person. For example, some documents such as affidavits must be signed in front of a JP or lawyer. As this was, and is, not possible during lockdown, special rules were put in place to enable people to sign documents such as wills, EPAs, affidavits and so on.

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Family protection and wills

The wise and just will-maker

I need to make a will but I do not want to leave my estate to my son as I never see him. I also do not want to leave my estate to my stepchildren. What can be done?

In some parts of the world, a will-maker can leave their assets to whomever they want, whether that be their children, a distant relative or to the local cats’ home. In New Zealand, however, this is currently not the case. Continue reading “Family protection and wills”

Claims on an estate

How much can a disinherited child expect?

The Family Protection Act 1955 allows children to bring claims against the estate of a deceased parent on the basis that their parent did not adequately provide for their ‘proper maintenance and support’. Exactly what constitutes ‘proper maintenance and support’ is the subject of considerable litigation, as well as extensive commentary in the media.

Since a trio of Court of Appeal decisions in the early 2000s, a general understanding has emerged that awards under the family protection legislation can be quantified by referring to a percentage of the relevant estate. It has long been said that a financially-stable adult child might expect to receive between 10%–20% of the estate of their deceased parent, depending on a number of factors including the size of the estate and the position of others under the will or those people who are entitled to make a claim. In many cases, the 10%–20% threshold has become an informal benchmark when assessing the position of a financially-stable adult child making a claim against a modest, but not insignificant, estate. Continue reading “Claims on an estate”

Enduring powers of attorney

How many people should you name as attorneys?

In previous articles, we have explained why it is important to have an enduring power of attorney (EPA) and the problems that can be created if you do not have one when the need arises. You should have two EPAs – one for property, and the other for personal care and welfare.

EPA

In your EPA, you should also take care to name appropriate people as your attorneys. Ideally you should name two people to manage your property, which also includes your finances and investments.

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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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