Whether you have moved away from family and friends, or most of your family has packed up and moved overseas, when your family lives abroad, it becomes even more important to have a plan in place for end-of-life matters. This planning ensures that your wishes are followed and provides clarity during an incredibly difficult time. 

Every country has their own rules and legal requirements with death and end-of-life planning, so it’s important to have a plan in place that family or friends can easily follow, even if they live in another country. So if you live in Australia but your loved ones or next of kin lived abroad, here is a guide to help you approach end-of-life planning. 

Given the various legal differences that can arise with families living outside Australia, it is crucial to have a comprehensive plan. To assist you in navigating this complex process, here is a detailed guide to end-of-life planning in Australia for people with family living abroad.

Start the conversation with your loved ones.

Nobody likes to talk about the inevitable, so opening up about end-of-life decisions is a difficult thing to do. It might even be the most challenging conversation you'll ever have, but it's necessary if you want to reduce the burden on your loved ones. By talking about your wishes, you give your loved ones a clear understanding of what you want, so they won't be left unsure and scrambling while grieving. 

Starting this conversation helps everyone be on the same page and that there is no confusion about your wishes. You may also need to explain to family overseas that you’ll be choosing someone in Australia as your executor or Enduring Power of Attorney (EPOA), rather than a loved one overseas. We will explain more about an EPOA below.

Create an Advance Care Directive (ACD).

Also known as an Advance Health Directive or Health Directive, this is a formalised and legally binding outline of your advanced healthcare plan in the event you cannot provide consent about a medical decision. 

It can contain all your needs, values and preferences for your future care and details of a medical treatment decision maker - who will be the person making decisions on your behalf. When correctly prepared and executed, this legal document will take precedence over other estate documents.

Creating an ACD is crucial because it enables you to express your medical preferences for end-of-life care in case you are unable to communicate them yourself. This is essential to ensure that your wishes are respected and protected. 

When your family resides in another country, it is important to share your ACD with them and select someone who lives locally to collaborate with healthcare providers, ensuring that your wishes are followed even when your family is far away. 

Read: How to create an Advance Care Directive.

Appoint an Enduring Power of Attorney.

In case you become incapable of making legal, financial or personal decisions, having an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPOA) in place means you’ll have someone to make those decisions on your behalf. 

An EPOA is very similar to an ACD, however it relates to any legal and personal matters such as  paying bills, signing documents, managing your property including selling, or making decisions about where you will live.

An EPOA, when made correctly, is also a legally binding document and must be followed.

Learn more about an Enduring Power of Attorney here.

Prepare your Will.

Did you know that less than 50% of adults have written their Will? If you are the owner of any assets, it’s time to prepare your Will, especially if most of your loved ones live overseas.

To ensure that your wishes for the distribution of your assets, guardianship of dependents, and any funeral or burial preferences are followed, it is important to create a legally valid Will

A Will is a legal document outlining your final wishes about how your estate will be distributed after your death. Your estate includes your assets such as cash, property and personal effects. Your Will is a legally binding document that outlines how these things will be distributed.

If your circumstances ever change, such as having children or moving overseas, your Will needs to be updated with every big change in your life.

Decide who will be your executor.

Choosing an executor of your Will and estate is an essential aspect of end-of-life planning to ensure that your wishes are carried out after you pass away. This legal role involves managing your estate, distributing assets, and handling administrative tasks like paying debts and taxes. 

When your family lives abroad, it becomes even more important to plan carefully. You will need to appoint a reliable local friend or legal representative as your executor and clearly state your wishes in a legally binding will. 

Additionally, maintain open and clear communication with your overseas family members, providing them with necessary documents and contact information for your chosen executor to facilitate a seamless transition during a challenging period.

Read: Who has the legal authority to make decisions on my behalf?

Specify your funeral preferences.

Nobody wants to think about their death, and whilst some of the previous documents and discussions might be uncomfortable, you might just want to put your funeral in the “too hard basket”. But if you want loved ones to follow your funeral wishes, you will need to tell them what you want.

You can specify your preferences for your funeral or memorial service, such as whether you prefer burial or cremation, the desired location, and any specific requests you may have. Whilst you might not want to think about it, it is important to ensure that your end-of-life wishes are clear to alleviate your family from making difficult decisions during a challenging time. 

When your family resides in another country, the process doesn’t change too much, but by letting them know about your wishes, if they need to travel to Australia in the unfortunate event of your death, they can ensure your wishes are carried out.

A couple of simple ways to organise everything include prepaying for your funeral, or outlining your final wishes and making sure your loved ones are aware of them

Keep your important documents accessible.

It is extremely important to make sure that your documents are easily accessible, especially when your family lives in another country. The distance can create many difficulties when it comes to making important decisions and handling affairs after you pass away. 

To deal with this, you may want to keep secure online documentation of your wishes, such as Wills, medical directives, and financial records, in a way that can be easily accessed. 

You may want to consider appointing a trusted local friend with your documents, but you can also use a secure digital platform to store and share these documents with your family overseas, such as the Bare Digital Vault. This will ensure a smoother transition and that your end-of-life preferences are followed, even from a distance.

Review your documents and update family regularly.

It is important to regularly communicate with your family who live abroad about your end-of-life plans and decisions. You can do this through video calls, emails, or letters to keep the lines of communication open. 

Everyone should periodically review and update their end-of-life documents to make sure they accurately reflect any changes in preferences or circumstances. This will ensure that you have a comprehensive and up-to-date plan.

Final thoughts on how to approach end-of-life planning when your family lives abroad.

When preparing for end-of-life matters while your family is living abroad, starting early and maintaining clear communication is the basis of everything you should do. Involve your loved ones in the decision-making process and consider their input, as they will play a significant role during that time. However, at the end of the day, your wishes and values are the priority.

Set aside time every six months or so to ensure that your legal documents are valid and nothing needs updating. This way, you can ensure that everything goes according to plan, even from a distance, and that your family remains a supportive part of the process.

Bare are here to support you through end-of-life planning, from writing your Will to preparing for your funeral. If you have any questions, give us a call on 1800 071 176.