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Your Pension

Changes to the Australian Pension Scheme seem to change regularly. It is important you are aware of all your entitlement, the assets threshold and assets test and the income threshold and income test.

It takes a Village has highlighted several websites and organisations that can help you with questions you may have in regard to pension. Centrelink Site for Seniors will provide information on:

  • Age pension
  • Aged care means test assessments
  • Commonwealth Seniors Health Card
  • Continence Aids Payment Scheme
  • Partner allowance
  • Pension Bonus Bereavement Payment
  • Pension Bonus Scheme
  • Pension Loans Scheme
  • Pension Supplement
  • Rent assistance
  • Explore payments based on your situation

The SuperGuide is also an excellent resource in regard to the Pension and retirement planning information. You can find key information such as:

  • How do the Age Pension rules work?
  • What are the latest Age Pension rates?
  • What is your Age Pension age?
  • What are the assets thresholds for the Age Pension assets test?
  • What are the income thresholds for the Age Pension income test?
  • Do you understand the Age Pension income test deeming rules for financial investments?

The Senior online publication is an interesting read and relevant to all our seniors. It recently published two informative articles about recent changes to the pension and asset tests limits.

The Financial Information Service (FIS) Ph: 131 021 is a free service provided by Centrelink. FIS can help you to understand the consequences of any financial decisions you are considering. This is not legal advice but a guide to inform and educate you about financial matters. FIS provide free seminars/information sessions in many areas on a number of topics which include:

  • Understand your own financial affairs and options
  • Understand financial planners and how to use their advice
  • Save and plan for the future through investing
  • Plan for your retirement
  • Understand what happens when you move into aged care
  • The risk of certain financial products
  • The roles of financial professionals
  • The benefit of reducing debt
  • How you can increase your overall retirement income
Upcoming seminars in Newcastle:

Please click onto Upcoming Seminars to find out when and where the next free seminar will be held in your area. All Seminars topics are held in several Central Coast and Newcastle areas.

THE SENIORS CARD

The Seniors Card Is a free card that gives you discounts and special offers at thousands of businesses across NSW. If you have a valid green Medicare card you can apply for a NSW seniors card online.

For eligibility, you must be:

  • 60 years of age or over when applying
  • A permanent resident of NSW
  • Averaging no more than 20 hours’ paid work a week (calculated annually)
  • The holder of a valid green Medicare card

Haven’t got a Seniors card but would like one? Call 137788 or click Apply

You had a card but you lost it/its damaged? Call 137788 or click Replace it

Have you already got a seniors card but may not know all the special offers and discounts available to you? Click Discounts to find out more.

What to Consider when Planning Ahead

it takes a Village understands that preparing for end of life events is not a pleasant thing to think about and can be confronting. But sadly too many people lose control of their health decisions, finances and place of residency, because they had not pre-planned. The more you prepare now and the more you let your wishes be known, the better your chance of your choices being respected and implemented. It is especially important if you have been recently diagnosed with a chronic condition. However, as important as it is, don’t rush into it. It is just important to ensure you appoint the right people to represent you.

Interested? Want to find out how? Keep reading…

First - Prepare a Will

A Will is a legal document that sets out who you want to receive your assets including jewellery, sentimental items, money and property when you die. Making a Will is the only way you can ensure your assets will be distributed according to your wishes. Also, If you leave a Will, the executor of your Estate has the legal authority to arrange your funeral the way you would like it arranged.

If you should die without a Will (Intestate) your estate will be distributed according to a pre-determined formula, with certain family members receiving a defined percentage of your assets despite what you may have wished. For help to prepare a Will click here or call 1300 887 529

NOTE: Preparing your own Will is not advisable. A Will must conform to strict legal requirements otherwise the Courts may decide it is not valid.

Professional Will-makers such as NSW Trustee & Guardian 1300 364 103 or your local solicitor (don’t forget if you can’t afford a solicitor – The Hunter Community Legal Centre can assist) will ensure areas covering testamentary capacity are addressed in the process of drafting a Will and will provide impartial witnesses. NSW Trustee & Guardian are also able to provide advice in relation to estate planning and who may contest your Will.

Many people avoid going through the process of ‘planning ahead” because they feel they will lose their independence or control over their health decisions and/or finances. This is not true. The person you elect to represent you, in instances of health or financial decisions, should always be someone you trust and has a good understanding about what your future plans/wishes are and agree to them.

NEXT: Consider appointing someone to act as your Power of Attorney, Enduring Guardian or Enduring Power of Attorney

What is a Power of Attorney?

Briefly, a Power of Attorney deals with property and financial matters. Your attorney can sign legally binding documents on your behalf. Making a Power of Attorney does not mean that you will lose control over your financial affairs. It simply gives your attorney formal authority to manage your financial affairs according to your instructions. Your Power of Attorney can be cancelled (revoked) at any time provided you have the capacity to do so.

It does not give someone the right to make decisions about your health, medical treatment or welfare. These decisions are covered by Enduring Guardianship.

Examples why you may need a Power of Attorney:

  • Because you may need someone you trust to withdraw large amounts of money from your bank account on your behalf if ill.
  • Because you need to sell your home but the processes are a bit complex and you would feel more confident if someone you trusted looked after the processes for your under your instructions.

Need More information?

NSW Trustee & Guardian 1300 364 103

Office of the Public Advocate provides excellent advice on how to choose the right person to act as your Power of Attorney or Guardian. 1300 309 337

Enduring Guardian

An Enduring Guardian can make decisions for you in areas such as accommodation, health and services, if you lose the capacity to make your own decisions at some time in the future.

An Enduring Guardian cannot make decisions about your money or assets. (see Power of Attorney)

The appointment of your Enduring Guardian takes effect only if you lose the capacity to make your own major personal decisions.

Examples of why you may need an Enduring Guardian

You may experience an injury or illness where you have lost the capacity to make decisions on your own behalf. The person you appoint as your Enduring Guardian should know you well and be trusted to make the best decisions in regard to your health, accommodation and service needed. Their decisions should reflect what you would want if you had the capacity to make these decisions yourself.

For example:

  • You may need to go into respite care because those who care for you need to go away. You have previously discussed this possibility and your Enduring Guardian knows what aged care facility you would be happy to go into should the need arise. Thus they would make these arrangements on your behalf.
  • You have dementia and no longer understand the paper work involved to arrange a contract with at home Service Provider to help you remain at home. Your Enduring Guardian can make these arrangements on your behalf.

Other areas your Enduring Guardian can make decisions on your behalf include Health Care and end of life treatments such as palliative care. They can also give or withhold consent to medical and dental treatments on your behalf.

Remember your appointment Enduring Guardian can only make decisions for you if you do not have the capacity to make them yourself.

The appointment of your Enduring Guardian takes effect only if you lose the capacity to make your own major personal decisions.

Examples of why you may need an Enduring Guardian

You may experience an injury or illness where you have lost the capacity to make decisions on your own behalf. The person you appoint as your Enduring Guardian should know you well and be trusted to make the best decisions in regard to your health, accommodation and service needed. Their decisions should reflect what you would want if you had the capacity to make these decisions yourself.

For example:

  • You may need to go into respite care because those who care for you need to go away. You have previously discussed this possibility and your Enduring Guardian knows what aged care facility you would be happy to go into should the need arise. Thus they would make these arrangements on your behalf.
  • You have dementia and no longer understand the paper work involved to arrange a contract with at home Service Provider to help you remain at home. Your Enduring Guardian can make these arrangements on your behalf.

Other areas your Enduring Guardian can make decisions on your behalf include Health Care and end of life treatments such as palliative care. They can also give or withhold consent to medical and dental treatments on your behalf.

Remember your appointment Enduring Guardian can only make decisions for you if you do not have the capacity to make them yourself.

Information, Resources and References

What is an Enduring Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney is only in effect while you have capacity to make decisions. If you want to make sure your attorney can still operate if you lose capacity, you will need to make an Enduring Power of Attorney. An Enduring Power of Attorney will continue to have effect after you have lost your capacity to make your own financial decisions. This is important for everyone, but becomes more important as we age. For example, if you are diagnosed with a chronic and progressive condition such as dementia.

There may come a time in the future when you lose the capacity to make optimal financial decisions on your own behalf. Therefore: you have appointed someone who knows you well and you trust to make these decisions for you through an Enduring Power of Attorney.

The Power of Attorney role ceases when you die. It is the executor named in your Will who will then take over the responsibility of administering your estate.

Click for more information, such as how to set up an Enduring Power of Attorney.

The Office of the Public Advocate provides excellent advice on how to choose the right person to act as your Power of Attorney or Guardian. 1300 309 337

So lets Discuss Capacity

According to NSW Health, a person is said to have the mental capacity to make a decision when they can:

  • Understand the information and choices presented to them;
  • Weigh up the information to determine what the decision will mean for him or her; and
  • Then communicate their decision

In NSW, the law assumes that everyone has the mental capacity to make their own decisions. However, sometimes a person may not have the capacity or ability to make decisions.

  • A person’s capacity to make decisions may be affected temporarily, for example because of illness or the effects of medication
  • A person’s mental capacity may also be affected permanently because of conditions such as intellectual disability, dementia, or brain injury

Capacity is decision specific, which means that the level of capacity required to make a decision will vary depending on the type of decision the person needs to make.

For Example;

  • Tom has dementia and is capable of making simple decisions about spending money on shopping. However, Tom finds it difficult to concentrate and remember details, so he does not have the capacity to make decisions about investing his superannuation
  • Mary has an intellectual disability. She knows that taking tablets will make her cough go away, so she has the capacity to consent to antibiotics. However, Mary cannot consent to having surgery because she does not have the capacity to understand all the complications, risks and side effects

Want to know more?

Click here to download the Capacity Toolkit. It has all the information you and your carers/family/appointed guardian/attorney will need to understand capacity and recognize when a person may have it for specific decisions and when they may not.

Lastly, Make an Advanced Care Directive

What is it?

An Advance Care Directive is basically a clear statement from you that sets out your directions, wishes and values that need to be considered before medical treatment decisions are made on your behalf. It is separate from the Enduring Guardianship.

Discussions around these issues are best done with people who are important to you and your doctor. An Advance Care Directive is not Euthanasia. Euthanasia is illegal in New South Wales.

Why is it important?

  • It ensures that the patient (you), (the family and the health professional are all acting in your best interest in a way in which you would want them to when making important medical decisions
  • It enables you to identify to your loved ones and health professionals your values and the type of health care you would want to receive if you became seriously ill/injured and were unable to communicate your wants
  • It has been shown that health outcomes for people and their families improve when they are able to talk through their concerns, decisions, preferences and choices with health professionals
  • Although an Advanced Care Directive focuses on your wants/needs when others are making medical decisions on your behalf. You can document other important information on it

For example:

  • Ensure you have enough blankets because you feel the cold
  • Outline the foods that you distinctly don’t eat or like
  • Needs for religious purposes eg. Require a female nurse?

There is currently no set form in NSW. The Making an Advance Care Directive package includes an Advance Care Directive form to complete and an Information Booklet to help you complete an Advance Care Directive.

Listen to an expert:

Dr Merran Cooper is a doctor, physiotherapist and death widwife. She is founder and CEO of Advance Life Care. Dr Cooper is passionate about helping people set up their own personal Advance Care Plan. Go to advancedlifecare.com to listen to her video and see her step by step guide.

For further information about advance care planning:

You can download the Advance Care Planning: Making your Wishes Known Brochure or go directly to the following websites:

The Planning Ahead Tools for future legal, health and financial decisions provides a 2 page summary on everything we have discussed in ‘Planning Ahead”. It can easily be downloaded and saved to your hard drive or printed off to keep for a quick reference.

You may find a Glossary of legal terms in regard to all areas of advanced planning useful.

The Seniors Right Services provide a wide range of brochures on many Senior specific issues all on the one page, including:

  • They want me to Leave
  • Adult Children living at home
  • Grandparents family law information guide
  • Helping your family financially
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