Lots of ‘things’ swirl around in our lives. There’s something, anything, good things, bad things, right things and wrong things. Some of us may even be described as wild things …
But my 35 years of legal experience tells me the biggest ‘thing’ of all, the top of the tree of things and the king of things in our lives is ‘no thing’, also known as ‘nothing’ – our wonderful propensity as human beings to do nothing about confronting the future (before it arrives).
In fact, there is a saying about Australians – we’ll always do the right thing once we’ve exhausted all other possibilities. As a result, most of us will pursue all the permutations of doing nothing ’til the day we die. Regrettably, you may not be surprised to hear that most of my work as a lawyer arises from the consequences of people who have done nothing. It’s also known as crisis management.
Understandably, doing something about the future usually means confronting adverse events such as death. It can be a sad experience we’d rather do without, let alone have any discussion about.
Curiously, there is an offshoot of this condition and it is not rooted in sadness but more in the opposite mindset – happiness. For all its redeeming features, happiness has its downsides. A sense of personal satisfaction and comfort about our lives, cling-wrapped and hermetically sealed from outside forces, can create a sense of apathy. I call it ‘hapathy’ – the apathy of happy. It will stimulate inaction.
Having described the familiar avoidance conditions some of us suffer from and which keep my business thriving, it’s time to address the legal consequences. They are simple and scary
You won’t decide what happens to your hard-earned assets when you die, the law will and you may not like the law’s prescription. While it varies between states and territories your assets will generally go to your spouse AND your children all at the same time
Oh dear, this is a doozy. Without one of these in place, if you lose capacity to make your own financial decisions, no one, that’s no one (not your spouse or your children) can make these decisions for you. They would be forced to go off to a tribunal to be appointed your decision-maker.
Sadly, without one of these in place, the person who determines what happens to all that super you’ve left behind and haven’t managed to spend before you die will not be you , it will be the trustee of your superannuation fund.
Just like super above, you don’t have the say as to where it goes, other people do.
This is potentially the sleeping giant of avoidance. The need to find aged care often comes out of the blue, putting extreme pressure on families, not to mention the astronomical financial consequences as well.
While the legal implications of doing nothing are dire and invariably not what you would want, the most pervasive and insidious offshoot of doing nothing is the often calamitous consequences on family relationships. The adult children are thrown into the mire in an attempt to fix things, leading to the eruption of sibling rivalries and enmities and the intercession of lawyers. A family can implode.
We call this marinating approach to life events ‘the legacy of lethargy’. Laziness leads to results you would never want but which you are almost guaranteed to get. The antidote is just a bit of courage to confront.
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