finance

The three decisions you shouldn’t put off too long.

NSW Government
Thanks to our brand partner, NSW Government

When I can’t sleep, I buy self-help books. My bookshelf is sagging with them. I tend to buy self-help books online, so about a week after a particularly sleepless night, I’ll find my letterbox bulging with some Oprah-endorsed wisdom on whatever was keeping me awake.

But the embarrassing truth is, I read very little of the self-help books I buy. They just pile up on a shelf that I keep in my room so that visitors can’t see just how many trees have died in my pursuit of inner-peace.

The books sit there with my adult dot-to-dot books, and my books on how to write a screenplay, how to screen print a t-shirt, how to generally be better looking and more fun at parties… And they never, ever get read.

"They just pile up on a shelf that I keep in my room so that visitors can’t see just how many trees have died in my pursuit of inner-peace." Image via iStock.

I’m an A-Grade procrastinator.

But there are three things that no woman should be putting off. We shouldn’t put off things that protect us. We shouldn’t put off things that protect our family. And we shouldn’t put off things that will make life easier down the track.

If you too are a serial procrastinator, these are the three things you need to prioritise to make sure you’re protecting yourself and your loved ones:

Prepare a Will.

It’s not morbid, it’s smart. A Will can set out not only how you want your finances distributed, it’s also somewhere you can include instructions about the things most important to you – who you want to care for your children (or pets), what you want your funeral to be like, and where your dearest possessions will end up.

planning ahead
"A Will can set out not only how you want your finances distributed, it’s also somewhere you can include instructions." Image via iStock.
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You need to keep your Will updated – especially if you get a divorce, have children or if your circumstances change (also, if you made your old Will in 1982, that $25 you left your niece may not be as exciting for her now as it was then).

If you die without a Will, it can be complex, time-consuming and distressing for your family, especially if you have a de facto or same-sex partner who may have to go through a process of proving their relationship to you at a time when they are grieving.

A Will doesn’t need to be complex – it just needs to be very clear and witnessed correctly so it is valid.

Make a Power of Attorney.

There are two types of Powers of Attorney. The first one (known simply as Power of Attorney) allows you to appoint someone to look after legal and financial matters for you. You’d give someone Power of Attorney if you were going overseas and needed someone to pay your bills for you, or if you wanted them to take care of something for you, like the purchase of a house. You can give someone that power for a short period and it only works while you have the capacity to control or understand your own legal or financial decisions.

An Enduring Power of Attorney, on the other hand, allows you to appoint someone to take care of your legal and financial affairs if you become unable to do it yourself (for example, if you become unwell or somehow lose the capacity to make decisions for yourself).

If you want to be in control of who will be making decisions about your financial affairs if you get very ill or lose the ability to make decisions for yourself, then you need an Enduring Power of Attorney.

Appoint an Enduring Guardian.

Where an Enduring Power of Attorney gives someone the power to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf if you are unwell or unable to do it yourself, appointing an Enduring Guardian will give someone the authority to make decisions about your lifestyle, medical treatment, where you live and what services you’ll get if you lose the capacity to make these decisions yourself.

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You can authorise your Enduring Guardian to do many things – including instructions on the services you would like to receive such as a house cleaner or a regular treatment like physiotherapy.

If you know how you want to live if you get very ill or lose the ability to make these decisions for yourself, then you need to make sure you choose someone you trust and appoint them to be your Enduring Guardian.

planning ahead
You can authorise your Enduring Guardian to do many things. Image via iStock.

You can write down in the appointment document the things that are most important to you about how you will be treated and where you want to live. You should also talk to your Enduring Guardian about your wishes, so that they are clear about what you want. It helps if the person you appoint has the same values as you, so if something unforeseen happens, you can trust them to make a good call. Remember, you can only make these documents while you have the mental capability to make decisions for yourself.

While these three things may seem complex and dramatic, the good news is it’s easier to go to a website and follow the instructions on how to get it sorted, than it is to, say, start buying books on how to master your self-awareness. The website has all of the details on what each document means and how to get in touch with someone who can help you with it.

You’ll sleep easier knowing that you’ve planned ahead – and knowing that you’ve helped yourself is better than any self-help book you could ever buy.

How are you planning ahead?