Before You Die

Let’s face it, anyone can die or experience an accident or event that renders them incapable of making or communicating decisions.  Here are the essential documents EVERYONE needs to assemble:

Item 1: A Current Will and, if you have a Super Fund, Item 2. A Binding Death Nomination.

  • These should be reviewed every 5 – 10 years and after every major family event such as a death or change in marital status of anyone mentioned in them.
  • After your death, your wishes described in these documents, are enacted by the Executor to the Will.

In the anticipation that you may lose capacity i.e. the mental capacity to direct your affairs, you should have:

Item 3: Enduring* Power of Attorney in place and Item 4: Enduring* Guardian nominated.

  • The Power of Attorney authorizes use of your money and property while an
  • Enduring Guardian advises others about your health care, living arrangements etc.
  • I recommend that you have at least two Guardians appointed, and that you give consideration to them acting severally i.e. either one can make a decision on your behalf. This is because decisions relating to health care, such as “should you be resuscitated?”, may need to be made urgently.

*Enduring is lawyers’ speak for “ongoing”.

Item 5: Advanced Care Directive.

  • This advises doctors, hospitals and others about who is your Guardian if you have lost capacity and
  • Provides broad guidelines about how and where you would like to be treated or allowed to die.

Item 6: Finally, I recommend that you compile a list of all your bank accounts, accountants, lawyers, passwords, people and places to be notified etc. so your Executor and or Guardian/Attorney can work their way through this.

There is no name for such a document. If you put it into computer language, some people call it a Digital Legacy but, if you are a pen and paper person, then it can all be put into a “golden oldie” folder.

You can consult your solicitor (or the Public Trustee Office) about Items 1 to 4 above.

For an Advanced Care Directive, I recommend that you use the Blue Booklet provided by NSW Health or Phone 1300 208 582.

If you need help filling it out, consult your GP and or the phone number just mentioned.  When you have finished your Advanced Care Directive, give a copy to your GP and have it uploaded onto your MyGov Health Record.

As for Item 6, just keep it in a safe place known to you and those who may need to use it, but not where it could be found or used by anyone who should not have it!

Resources and Links

Advanced Care Directives (Getting it Done) – Jill Nash (.pdf)

Your Checklist (Preparing for the Inevitable) – Jill Nash (.pdf)

Appointing an Enduring GuardianAdvice for NSW residents and Form

NSW Trustee & Guardian – A NSW government resource for making your will or power of attorney and an impartial option for guardianship and management of financial affairs.

Worried about your own, or someone else’s capacity to execute these decisions? Download the NSW Communities and Justice Capacity Toolkit.

If you are a Choice subscriber, it has an excellent tool to assist you to create a personalized End-of-Life Checklist.

Dying to Know Day – An annual event, but this website also provides advice about Advance Care Plans, Guardianship, Wills and Super and celebrating a life.

Digital Legacy Association: the global organisation supporting the public and professional bodies with digital assets planning and digital legacy safeguarding. Includes advice about Social Media accounts such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

Who to Notify Checklist: (If someone has died). From Services Australia (pdf Download)

The Australian Death Notification Service is a free government initiative to help people get in touch with multiple organisations using a single online notification.

Go Gentle Australia: Committed to making Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) available to all terminally ill Australians.

Dying with Dignity NSW: Committed to making VAD a realistic and accessible choice in NSW.

Carer Gateway: Advice, support and training for Carers with options for Emergency Respite Care (after registration and interview)

Resources to Support Families Caring for Someone at the End of their Life – from the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care.

Seniors Rights Service: a community organisation dedicated to protecting and advancing the rights of older people

Palliative Care Australia – with advice for patients and carers including how to access these services

National Palliative Care Projects Hub: From the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care with links to Palliative Care Australia and Education for Undergraduates, Pharmacists and other Carers

What is Palliative Care (A short YouTube video from the Department of Health and Aged Care)

End of Life Doula Directory: Helping you find a Death Doula in your vicinity.

Organising a funeral – practical advice from NSW (government) Services.

Cremation Ashes: Fact sheet describing what can be done with them from NSW Health.

To Donate your Organs after death you need to be on the Australian Organ Donor Register. Almost everyone can donate organs and tissue. While age and medical history will be considered, don’t assume you are too young, old or unhealthy to become a donor. The most important thing is to register and talk to your family about your decision to donate.

Unlike organ donation, in Australia, there is no single register for body donation. Instead, there are several universities across Australia that you can Donate Your Body for Science. To apply, you need to contact the University directly. The Link above provides a list of the universities in Australia and advice about how they can be contacted for this purpose.

Violet: Free information and support focusing on the last stage of life and the grief and loss that accompanies it.

Grief Australia: Apps, counselling and support for anyone experiencing grief or loss.

Updated 11 May 2024