Planning ahead

When people think about the future they generally take it for granted that they will always be able to make their own decisions. Many people plan ahead for their financial and business affairs upon their death by making a will, but do not consider what will happen if they find themselves unable to make day to day decisions in financial and personal areas such as health and accommodation matters, due to illness or accident.

If you are unable to make your own decisions because of a temporary or permanent loss of decision -making capacity, you cannot always be sure that informal support networks or people important to you will be able to make significant decisions on your behalf.

Talking to important people in your life about what you want is helpful but may not be enough, for example, in situations where there is conflict or dispute about how you would want decisions to be made if you were not able to make them.

If you have an illness or accident which affects your ability to make your own decisions the opportunity to choose who you want as your substitute decision maker may be lost. It is important to give consideration to having these legal tools in place before they are needed.

There are legal tools that let you choose who you want to have the authority to make decisions in all areas of your life if you are unable to make these decisions for yourself.

These tools also allow you to give specific instructions to your substitute decision makers if you wish. You can also build in safeguards to ensure that your substitute decision- maker's actions are monitored or that the person keeps others informed about what they are doing.

Alternatively, if you prefer, you can have your lawyer prepare these documents.

What could I plan for?

Depending on your stage of life or circumstances you can decide which of these tools will help you plan ahead..

  • Appointing an attorney through an Enduring Power of Attorney who can manage legal and financial affairs if you are no longer able to.
  • Make an Advance Care Directive which is a legal document where a person is able to write down his or her instructions, wishes and preferences for future health care, accommodation and personal matters, and/or appoint one or more substitute decision makers who are people chosen to made decisions on his or her behalf in any period of impaired decision making capacity, or as determined by the person.
  • Making a Will to appoint an executor and to direct your estate to be distributed according to your wishes on death

Where can I get additional advice?

You can get advice from the Office of the Public Advocate Information & Advisory Service on 08 8342 8200 and Legal Services Commission information service on phone number 1300 366 424.

Further information can also be found at SA Health http://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/planningahead