Putting your affairs in order

It’s important to think about the practical aspects of preparing for death, although this can be difficult. Planning in advance can ensure that a woman’s wishes are acted upon. It can also prevent any painful decisions that the woman’s partner or family might need to make if she doesn’t make her wishes known.

Legal considerations differ in each state and territory.

Find out more about:

Living Will/Advanced Health Directive

A Living Will or Advanced Health Directive is a document that states a woman’s wishes or directions regarding her future health care.

It can be helpful for a woman to discuss with her partner, family/close friend and doctor whether or not she wishes to be kept alive by artificial means, or resuscitated if she stops breathing.

A Living Will or Advanced Health Directive can be used to cover matters such as consent to future health treatment and the circumstances in which a woman does or doesn’t want to have life-sustaining measures. The Advanced Health Directive only comes into effect when a woman is no longer capable of making decisions for herself.

Requirements for an Advanced Health Directive may differ by state or territory. An Advanced Health Directive doesn’t replace a protected or enduring Power of Attorney, which enables the holder to manage a woman’s personal or business affairs when she can no longer do so.

Tips for writing an Advanced Health Directive
 

  • Talk to a doctor about what you want and how to write an Advanced Health Directive.
  • Decisions in your Advanced Health Directive should be about specific situations rather than a general, ‘do not resuscitate’ statement. Discuss the nature of life-saving treatments and their end results with your doctor so that you are fully informed before you make any decisions.
  • A solicitor can prepare an Advanced Health Directive or a standard form can be purchased from a newsagent.
  • In some states the document must be signed in the presence of your doctor or the doctor has to provide a certificate to say that you have the necessary decision-making capacity at the time of making the directive.
  • A copy of the Advanced Health Directive should be held in your medical file and given to your treatment team. The file should also be marked to indicate that it contains an Advanced Health Directive.
  • Plan to review any decisions at regular intervals, but particularly if your health changes significantly.

Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is a document given from one person to another to act on their behalf should they not be able to manage their own affairs.

A Power of Attorney can be given to a woman’s partner or another adult, such as a close and trusted friend. The nominated person, known legally as the donee, can also manage the woman’s financial or practical arrangements, if she is unable to do this for herself.

There are four types of Power of Attorney:

  • Power of Attorney – someone you trust who can make decisions about your care at a given point in time if you are not able to decide for yourself; if you wish, a Power of Attorney can also manage your financial arrangements if you are unable to do this for yourself
  • Enduring Power of Attorney (Financial) – someone you appoint who can make financial or legal decisions for you if at sometime in the future you are unable to make those decisions for yourself
  • Enduring Power of Attorney (Medical Treatment) – someone you appoint who can make medical treatment decisions for you if at sometime in the future you are unable to make those decisions for yourself
  • Enduring Power of Guardianship – someone you appoint who can make decisions related to your lifestyle, such as where you will live, if at sometime in the future you are unable to make those decisions for yourself.

These names may vary slightly by state and territory – a member of the healthcare team or a solicitor can provide more information.

Before appointing someone it’s important for a woman to discuss with them the kinds of decisions they might be asked to make. They need a clear understanding of the woman’s views and wishes.

Writing a will

A will outlines who should receive a woman’s possessions and property after her death.

If a woman doesn’t write a will, a government body will decide this on her behalf. This might not be in accord with the woman’s wishes and can also be very costly. A will can also contain instructions for funeral and burial arrangements.

It may also be important for a woman to discuss with her partner, family and/or close friends:

  • how any children under 18 years will be cared for
  • wishes about funeral and burial arrangements
  • preferences about dying at home or in a hospice, palliative care unit or hospital.


A solicitor can provide advice about drawing up a will or making changes to an existing will. It’s better for a woman to do this when she is feeling well.

A woman’s thoughts might change over time and it’s important for her to let others know if she changes her mind.