Having a valid Will is the best way to ensure that the people you want will inherit what you own, and that your children will be cared for by the people you choose, after your death. Giving a power of attorney allows someone you trust to make decisions for you while you are still alive. It might apply only if you are incapacitated or on deployment, or it might be effective at any time.

What is a Will?

A Will is a legal document that takes effect when you die and usually sets out who receives your belongings, who looks after any children under 18, how pets are to be cared for, any wishes about funeral arrangements and who is responsible for seeing that your instructions are carried out.

If you die without a valid Will, the law specifies who receives what you own, but this might not be what you want. Having a valid Will also makes life easier for the loved ones who have to deal with your affairs after you die. The legal process involved in administering a valid Will is almost always quicker, simpler, cheaper and less emotionally draining than what is involved when there is no valid Will.

It is not compulsory for ADF members to have a Will, but legal officers from Defence Counsel Services will prepare a simple, legally valid Will for members at no cost. Defence also arranges for secure storage of your Will after it has been prepared.

You should review your Will whenever your personal circumstances change. For example, you start or end a relationship, you become a parent or step-parent, someone mentioned in your Will dies or you acquire or sell significant assets. As a guide, most people should review their Will every three to five years. Defence Counsel Services will also update an ADF member’s Will at no cost.

If you are an ADF member and would like to make or update your Will, contact Defence Counsel Services.

Telephone: 1800 563 563

Email: [email protected]

What is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney allows someone else to make a range of decisions for you. While a Will only operates after your death, a Power of Attorney only operates while you are still alive.

Australian states and territories have different laws about Powers of Attorney and similar documents. They also have different names, such as ‘enduring guardianship’, ‘advanced care directive’ or ‘advance personal plan’. Some documents only allow financial and legal decisions, such as buying or selling property, operating bank accounts or filing a tax return. Others only apply to medical care, accommodation and personal support. Still others encompass both financial and health matters.

Most of these documents can specify when they are effective. A spouse might be appointed immediately and indefinitely. A professional advisor might be appointed only to sign documents for selling a house, or a family member might be appointed for a specified period of time to cover a deployment.

Whatever it is called and however it operates, giving a person Power of Attorney requires careful thought and almost always legal advice. You must trust the person you appoint to do the right thing, because there is scope for them to abuse the power.