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Tough Questions: Who will look after your affairs when you're no longer able to?

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Public Trust has provided generations of New Zealanders with independent, expert advice on Wills and Enduring Powers of Attorney.

Recent research conducted by New Zealand’s Public Trust reveals that 55%* of Kiwis don’t have a Will. A nationwide campaign called “Tough Questions” launched by Public Trust, one of New Zealand’s largest providers of Wills, Trusts, Estate Administration and Management, is aimed at raising public awareness of the importance in planning for your future.

“One of the things I have learnt in my 20 years at Public Trust is that nobody knows how others will react in the event of someone passing away,” says Principal Trustee Charissa Mackenzie. “So many people make the assumption that everyone will have the same wishes and opinions as they do, but suddenly when they’re put in that situation, their opinions might not be shared by others.”

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Having a Will gives you a voice after you’re gone, allowing you to specify how you want your personal matters managed. It contains directions for how your assets will be administered or distributed as you wish, important decisions about your children’s care and any special wishes that you have for your funeral. Without a Will, the law determines how your assets are divided and what happens to the people who depend on you, and what happens may not be what you would want or expect.

It’s important that Wills are current, particularly in these times of blended families, says Mackenzie. “Wills that haven’t been updated can be affected by marriage and/or divorce, meaning the Will you had may no longer be valid. This can open up a raft of emotions for the family at a difficult time. If you know there’s a current Will, there’s a comfort in knowing that you will be following up on what your loved one wanted.”

Ideally, your Will should be paired with an Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPA), enabling you to choose a trusted friend, relative or organisation like Public Trust to make important decisions on your behalf if you’re unable. There are two types of EPAs to consider: one for your personal care and welfare and another for your property. Your Personal Care Attorney will look after your welfare if you’re deemed medically unable to do so. Your Property Attorney will manage your financial and property-related matters, and they must always act in your best interests. Your Property Attorney ensures that your finances are managed to meet your needs and living costs.

“EPAs are equally as important as Wills, but many people overlook that side of things, assuming their next of kin can make decisions if they are not able. A lot of couples say, “It’s not an issue, everything is owned jointly”, but you don’t automatically have the right to fill out paperwork on behalf of your spouse or to sign legal documents on their behalf – and nobody has a natural legal right to make the decisions about your health and welfare. By having an EPA prepared by Public Trust, you will have someone you can trust to take care of your affairs.”

It’s important that an independent expert writes a Will that accurately reflects your wishes, says Mackenzie. “Public Trust is a service that provides you with that expert advice.”

*Kantar TNS survey (Oct-Dec 2016)

How prepared are you? See how many Tough Questions you can answer in the “Tough Questions Quiz”.