I was invited to meet with members of the New England Cancer Carers’ Group this week and present to them on some of the legal issues faced by those who find themselves caring for a loved one undergoing treatment for cancer or some other illness.
I was confronted during my research at how many legal issues carers face, mainly as volunteers as well. I felt it was important to reassure the carers that there are many good solicitors and accountants in our region who can assist to work through these issues.
The big ticket items are there – ensuring that their loved one has his or her affairs in order via a Will, an Enduring Power of Attorney, an Appointment of Enduring Guardian (with Advanced Care Directive) and through superannuation arrangements. But there is a fine line that carers must tread between assisting to put those arrangements in place and being perceived to be influencing the decisions being made. That perception may arise particularly where the carer has come along later in the ill person’s life and there are children from an earlier marriage. My advice to the carers was to make arrangements for a visit from the ill person’s solicitor but then step back from the process and allow the solicitor to manage the situation.
Farm and business succession struck me as a big issue too. Where a farm or business has been run by a person who suddenly becomes seriously ill, his or her carer may need to step into the breach and run the farm or business; and be the primary carer as well! Many farmers and business people work with their solicitors and accountants to prepare plans that deal with that eventuality but many do not as well. On top of everything else, it can be very stressful for the ill person, primary carer and the family to have to come together at that time to have the drawn out discussions required to put in place a viable farm or business succession plan.
We discussed a raft of other legal issues as well – the ill person and the carer needing flexible work arrangements from their employers; issues with claims against income protection, trauma, TPD and life insurance policies; workers compensation claims where the illness is work-related; privacy laws and access to medical records; medical negligence claims; issues with funeral arrangements; the executor’s role; and so on.
The solicitors at Everingham Solomons work with carers facing legal issues like those above to provide some peace of mind at a difficult time because Helping You is Our Business.
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