It is common - but incredibly distressing - for couples to be separated by death late in life. The remaining partner may go on to live many more years, often carrying the burden of grief alongside declining health.
Alice and Ernie (not their real names) had been happily married since the 1950s and had raised three children into adulthood before they retired comfortably to a lifestyle village in Queensland.
Because they were the kind of people who liked to plan ahead, they made two important decisions during this period when they were fit and enjoying life together.
The first was that they chose a village which had the option of transitioning to supported accommodation when the time came that one or both of them would need extra support.
The second was that when they reviewed their estate plans to reflect their changing circumstances, they elected to appoint Equity Trustees as their Enduring Power of Attorney (EPOA).
An EPOA is one of the most important documents you can make during your lifetime.
It provides instructions to someone you nominate to act on your behalf if you lose capacity temporarily (for example, a period of severe illness and recovery) or permanently (for example, if there is acquired brain injury or dementia). They can vary between States and Territories, but generally EPOAs involve directions on how you want medical and financial matters to be dealt with on your behalf.
This became very important for Alice and Ernie after some years of their move into the village. When Ernie died in 2015, the distress and grief Alice experienced led to a serious decline in her health, including a diagnosis of dementia within a year of this terrible loss.
Alice's children knew their parents well and knew that they had engaged Equity Trustees in their estate planning. The impact of dementia on Alice's ability to manage her financial affairs led the children to contact Equity Trustees to assist their mother according to the EPOA.
"We stepped in right away to assist the family with the move from Alice's existing home to the supported facility within the village," said Katrina Harper, National Manager of the Health and Personal Injury team at Equity Trustees.
"Part of that included securing all her valuable personal belongings and arranging for them to be valued, catalogued and stored on Alice's behalf, knowing that she dearly wished for many of these items to be gifted to family when she passed."
Alice still has years of quality life in her and a family that cares for her. Now, she also has an Equity Trustees person taking care of some of the more routine aspects of life - freeing the family from those tasks.
"We take care of paying all of Alice's expenses, her accommodation and medical costs, and we coordinate special carers to take her to appointments when she needs them," explained Katrina. "We also enjoy visiting her for a cup of tea and a biscuit on a regular basis, to see how she is going."
Find out more about Enduring Power of Attorney in the Wills and Estate Planning section of our website at www.eqt.com.au/poa and more about our Health and Personal Injury team at www.eqt.com.au/healthandpersonalinjury.
Disclaimer: Equity Trustees Wealth Services Limited (ABN 33 006 132 332) AFSL 234528 are part of the EQT Holdings Limited (ABN 22 607 797 615) group of companies, listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX:EQT). This content is intended as a source of information only. No reader should act on any matter without first obtaining professional advice which takes into account an individual's specific objectives, financial situation and needs.