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How to protect your quality of life and your family with estate planning

Perpetual Guardian client manager Gail Stevens.

Wills, trusts and enduring powers of attorney are arguably the most invaluable legal tools we have to defend our own interests, and those of our loved ones, over the long term. Trustee company Perpetual Guardian shares this instructive story of a client.

Everyday conversation is riddled with stories of financial missteps: the neighbour who backed the wrong finance company; the acquaintance whose will was successfully challenged by a would-be beneficiary who was wrongly left out in the cold.

Estate planning, incorporating wills, trusts and enduring powers of attorney (EPAs), should be top of mind when you think about your future and that of your loved ones. When you need it, you want to make sure you have it, and have got it right.

One instructive tale is that of Sarah and Matt*, siblings who were encouraged to set up separate trusts with Perpetual Guardian in 2003 as part of their wider family’s estate planning. Perpetual Guardian also arranged for EPAs and wills for the pair. In this case, the company’s role included managing the assets and the purchase of a property within Sarah’s trust.

So far, straightforward, until life happened: over time, Sarah developed serious health problems that required extra personal care, which was funded by her trust. The cost of care soon escalated to a point where the trust couldn’t foot the bill from existing liquid assets, and the best solution was to sell the property held by the trust.

At the time Sarah’s problems began, Perpetual Guardian client manager Gail Stevens was working to identify a retirement facility that would give Sarah the care she needed while supporting her independence – all part of the work done by the company when it is appointed as the attorney under a care-and-protection EPA. (The other type of EPA is financial; the two EPAs for one individual may be held by a single person/trustee or separate ones.)

Then, in early 2015, Sarah had an accident which saw her hospitalised for several months, and this incident, compounded by her existing health issues, put assisted apartment living out of the question. After hospital, Sarah moved to a rehabilitation centre.

Meanwhile, Gail scouted for a suitable retirement village that also offered hospital care, and because of Sarah’s EPA with Perpetual Guardian, she was empowered to assist Sarah with the legal, financial and practical arrangements from the transfer from rehab to rest home. The proceeds from the sale of the trust property were held by the trust, and as trustee, Perpetual Guardian worked with Sarah to develop an investment strategy that best fitted her care and lifestyle requirements – and fitted the circumstances of the trust’s other beneficiaries.

Sadly, Sarah passed away last year and upon her death, Perpetual Guardian administered her will, ensuring her wishes were carried out. Gail continues to work with the family, including Sarah’s brother Matt, on matters of estate planning.

Wills, trusts and EPAs encompass all the Big Stuff of life – who will inherit your assets and valuables when you die; how assets will be protected and grown to benefit future generations; who will make decisions for you if you are no longer capable – and the little details, too. Gail has acted in Sarah’s interests in times of change and crisis, and even after her death. Sarah’s story is a prime example of how estate planning to protect wealth and well-being is about the big picture – and the finer details.

To speak to Gail or another experienced client manager, contact Perpetual Guardian on 0800 87 87 82 or email info@pgtrust.co.nz.

*The names of the clients in this article have been changed to protect their privacy.