Challenges to living and leaving well

The following article was published by Alzheimers New Zealand.

Opinion piece
6 July, 2018

New Zealand has a poor record in estate planning. In fact, less than half of the New Zealand adult population has a will.

It often takes a change in life circumstances, such as a health scare, to get someone thinking about and planning for the future. Even then, the term ‘estate planning’ can be confusing and fail to capture everything that’s involved.

One of the most important aspects to estate planning is an enduring power of attorney (EPA) – a legal document that names someone known or trusted to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to through illness or injury.

Having an EPA is perhaps more important than ever. People are living longer, which has contributed to the over 65s now being the fastest-growing demographic group in New Zealand, and one expected to double in size within the next 20 years.  

This population growth brings with it increasing demands on the health sector, with dementia standing as a particularly challenging issue. In fact, by 2050, it’s predicted that the number of people living with dementia in New Zealand could fill Eden Park more than three times.

An increase in dementia also means more families facing ongoing, daily challenges that come with contending with the illness, and it’s these challenges that have become a focus for Public Trust in recent times.

Our research has revealed a genuine need for individually tailored services to handle everyday financial and property matters if someone is ill or incapable.

This need is partly driven by the longevity of the over 65s, but it’s also because couples tend to have children much later in life now, and because both parents need to work to stay ahead financially.

These social factors have created the so-called sandwich generation – time-poor people caught between tending to the needs of ageing parents, while in the thick of managing their and their children’s lives.

As a result of our research, we created Personal Assist – a financial and property service that takes care of any day-to-day matters, as well as any special one-off tasks. It’s designed to suit the circumstances of the over 65s and the sandwich generation by freeing up time for families and protecting against financial abuse.

Early signs for Personal Assist are positive. However, while the need is clearly there, it may still take some time before such services become mainstream. A cultural shift is probably needed before more parents and their children become comfortable with the idea of transferring to an independent organisation what they see as their own responsibility.

To help with this cultural shift, our recent Tough Questions campaign features a video of Jean and Wayne, a couple who have first-hand experience of the demands of caring for and handling the affairs of someone who is incapacitated – in this case, Jean’s mother.

The video concludes with Jean making it clear she wants to ensure her family avoid a similar experience.

It’s a sentiment that lies at the heart of services such as EPA and Personal Assist, and estate planning more broadly – it is as much about living well as leaving well.

Contact: Ian Letham, Content & Communications Consultant

Phone: 022 070 0979