Succession planning – what you need to know

No one likes to talk about death, but as it’s inevitable for all of us, everyone should plan for it.

You can plan for what will occur in the event of your death in several ways.

Firstly, it’s vital to have a Will. Dying without a Will is known as dying “intestate”, and that means you and your family may not have control over what happens to your estate. 

For example, the family home may be sold and the people who inherit your assets may not necessarily be the ones you had in mind.

It could also take more than 12 months to settle your affairs, and the cost could be significant.

Having a Will saves your family and loved ones a great deal of emotional and financial stress.

If you do have a Will, it’s essential to keep it current.

Generally speaking, you should change or update your Will after a significant life event, such as: 

  • If you marry, re-marry/re-partner, separate or divorce.
  • If you have more children/grandchildren.
  • If you acquire or dispose of significant assets.
  • If you establish or dispose of a business.
  • If an executor becomes ill or dies.
  • If a beneficiary dies or has a significant change in circumstances.

Make sure your Will also outlines what will happen to any children who might still be a minor if you die unexpectedly.

You can also appoint what is called a Power of Attorney.

A power of attorney allows you to appoint someone you trust, such as a family member or friend, to make decisions for you during your lifetime.

These can be decisions about: 

  • Personal (including health) matters, which relate to personal or lifestyle decisions, including support services, where and with whom you live, health care and legal matters that do not relate to your financial or property matters.
  • Financial matters relate to decisions about your financial or property affairs including paying expenses, making investments, selling property (including your home) or carrying on a business.

There are two types of power of attorney – general power of attorney, which ends if you lose capacity, and enduring power of attorney, which continues if you lose capacity.

To make an enduring power of attorney, you must be 18 or older and have the capacity to understand the document you are signing and the powers it gives. You must also be capable of making the enduring power of attorney freely and voluntarily — not due to pressure from someone else.

To be eligible to be an enduring attorney, a person must:

  • have the capacity to make decisions.
  • be 18 or older.
  • not be your paid carer or not have been your paid carer in the past three years; your health provider; a service provider for a residential service where you live; bankrupt or taking advantage of the laws of bankruptcy, if appointed for financial matters.


Ageing, unfortunately, comes with a lot of healthcare decisions. If you, or someone in your family, is diagnosed with an illness or is simply getting old and frail, you might like to have an Advance Care Directive.

An Advance Care Directive is a legal document that formally records your wishes for future medical and health care. 

It comes into effect only if you become incapable of making your own decisions or communicating them.

Advance Care Directives can contain various information, from specific health conditions and allergies to spiritual or cultural beliefs that may affect how you are cared for. 

They also inform those around you about what sort of treatment you would want or not want. Often, this includes specific preferences around medical treatment, palliative care, life support and organ donation.

You can give specific instructions about certain medical treatments and outline the quality of life that would be acceptable to you. For example, you might ask that life-prolonging treatment – such as tube feeding or resuscitation – be withheld or withdrawn if you have:

  • a terminal illness with no known cure or chance of recovery.
  • severe and irreversible brain damage, and you can’t communicate.
  • a severe illness or injury that you’ll probably never recover from.

Succession planning can be a complex and emotional subject. Here at Bickell & Mackenzie, our Wills and Estates experts are here to help you with this important part of life. 


Contact Bickell & Mackenzie today to ensure your affairs are in order. 

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