Ann remembers the day she received a call she’d never forget.
“It was a gorgeous Autumn day. I was in the sun, having coffee with a girlfriend, waiting for my son to finish training” says Ann, who recalls a ‘perfect weekend morning’ before her world crumbled around her.
Ann answered a call from her father, sobbing on the other end.
“I could tell something wasn’t right because Dad was beside himself. All he could manage to say was ‘It’s Mum’. My heart just filled with panic.”
“Mum is only 65. She is so healthy and full of life. The glue that holds our family together. She always has us around for dinners and spends time with her grandkids. She wasn’t ‘slowing down’ at all!”
“I remember she had caught a cold from one of the grandkids a few weeks earlier, and it really seemed to knock her around more than usual. When Dad called, I honestly expected it to be an accident or something more extreme. But he said that she developed severe pneumonia and was in ICU on a ventilator. I was shocked!”
“I’ll never forget that moment. The pain in my heart was almost unbearable”.
“It has been two weeks since she went into ICU. The worst part is, I don’t even know if she can hear me. I know she is alive but I am paralysed by the fear that she may never wake up again.”
At the height of Ann’s grief, she had to face another challenge: neither her Mum or Dad had any of the right legal and medical documents in place to nominate someone to make decisions for them when they were unable to make decisions themselves. But even more importantly, she and her family had no idea what their wishes were, or how they wanted to be cared for.
“We learned that If Mum had something called an Advance Care Directive in place, we would have known what she’d want us to do” Ann later found out.
“I didn’t even realise it was something people did,” says Ann.
“Now Dad is faced with difficult decisions and he doesn’t even know what Mum would have wanted”.
To make things more complex, arguments arose between Ann’s siblings, all with different opinions on the course of action for their mother’s treatment. Her Dad wasn’t coping.
The next few days saw Ann take on the overwhelming emotional burden of sorting out her Mum’s estate amongst the squabbles, with no formal instructions.
“I can’t begin to express how difficult that time was. I was grieving my beautiful Mum (even though she was still hanging on), trying to keep things together for Dad and the rest of my family… at the same time trying to work out the best decisions for Mum’s future and Dad’s happiness. It was a heart-wrenching,” says Ann.
“A harrowing month passed by. One cold winter’s morning we turned off Mum’s ventilator, still to this day crippled by the decision”
Ann’s story is a stark reminder of the importance of not only having a Will, but other necessary legal and medical documents in place that provide guidance when someone is still alive but unable to make decisions. No matter your age, health or life situation.
Not only does it ensure your wishes are fulfilled, it makes things clear and less stressful for your family if you pass away.
“I wish Mum and Dad had recognised the importance of having things like a Will, Powers of Attorney and medical plans in place. This investment could have saved us from the burden of trying to make decisions on our own,” says Ann.
“Get an estate plan in order. I can’t stress this enough. Just do it today.”
So, if you’re ready to put a plan in place to protect your wishes and guide your family if you can’t care for yourself, where do you start?
Maurice Blackburn Principal lawyer, Andrew Simpson, says it’s not only important to have a Will, but also other legal documents that are equally as important, and are needed while you’re alive.
“Here at Maurice Blackburn, we see too many people who face issues because a loved one died without a Will, or they have been in a position where they have had to make medical decisions on behalf of family members, without a legal document to guide them.
“This is why Maurice Blackburn has developed the essential estate planning package - MyLife Documents®, that includes;
“Without going through the tedious process of having to get each of these documents sorted individually- and costing a fortune- we have packaged them up for a fixed price. We work together with you, over two consultations, to prepare them in one go. Our clients are just so relieved when they realise it is much easier than they thought.”
As Ann’s story highlights, the cost of not having an estate plan is far greater than the cost of making one.
Our experienced wills and estates lawyers are here to help - everything from getting your own affairs in order, to administering a Will when you're an executor, to challenging a Will.
Our Canberra office is now closed, but our team continues to serve ACT clients and are available for phone and video appointments. If you need legal advice, please call us on 1800 675 346.
We have lawyers who specialise in a range of legal claims who travel to Tasmania. If you need a lawyer in Hobart, Launceston or elsewhere in Tasmania, please call us on 1800 675 346.