Expert Advice

New head of wills and estates offers alternatives to doing business in person

Karyn Starmer1 May 2020
Portrait of Julia Bridgewater from Sneddon Hall & Gallop.

Julia Bridgewater, the new head of Sneddon Hall & Gallop’s wills and estates team. Photo: Supplied.

Vulnerable Canberrans with unfinished legal or financial business who are now finding themselves unable to leave home due to COVID-19 do not need to hit the pause button. There is help at hand says Julia Bridgewater, the new head of the wills and estates team at Snedden Hall & Gallop.

“There are many people who have been caught mid-transaction by the coronavirus lockdown,” says Julia. “People who were in the process of buying or selling property, changing business structures or even drawing up a new will, and are now unable to attend to business in person.”

Julia says while many things can be attended to electronically, there are still some situations that require physical representation to complete. In these cases, she suggests using a specific and limited power of attorney.

A power of attorney is a legal document in which one person nominates and gives legal authority to another to act on affairs on their behalf. In effect, a power of attorney allows you to delegate the management of your affairs to someone you trust.

People can use their power of attorney to conduct their affairs, including buying and selling property, operating a bank account, and voting at meetings or functions.

Julia says many people are familiar with an enduring power of attorney, the type usually arranged at the same time as a will. An enduring power of attorney is put in place so that a designated person can be called upon to make decisions for someone in a situation where they do not have the mental capacity to attend to their own affairs. It does not usually have an end date.

“In situations such as the coronavirus pandemic, where people cannot leave the house to represent themselves, a general power of attorney is a great tool,” says Julia. “You can appoint someone to sign documents or make financial and legal decisions for you, for a specified purpose and a specific period of time.

“A general power of attorney does not give that person the power to make personal, medical or lifestyle decisions on your behalf.”

As the new head of Snedden Hall & Gallop’s wills and estates team, Julia says she was drawn to this area of law early in her career.

“I like being able to write an effective document,” she says. “Having the skills to draft a document, making sure everything is taken care of, knowing things will happen the way people want it, makes my work very satisfying.”

Julia has lived in many parts of the world and went to boarding school in Sydney, but has long connections to the Canberra region. Her mother was the pharmacist at Riverside Plaza in Queanbeyan for many years. She met her husband, a Nimmitabel farmer, while studying accounting at the University of Sydney.

“I lived the life of a Monaro farmer’s wife for 13 years,” she says. “I learned so much about the value of community and that we all have roles to play outside of what we do for a job. I had never experienced that before. I also learned first hand the importance of good succession planning in family businesses.”

Julia studied law while raising two children on the farm, going on to work in a law firm in Cooma. “I really hit the ground running,” she says. “I went from farmer’s wife to a full-time career in law. Starting at a small-town firm was a great start. We eventually moved to Canberra for new opportunities but we love that we can live and work in Canberra and still be close to the mountains.

“I am excited to lead the team at Snedden Hall & Gallop. The combination of my accounting and law background and running a farm business has given me good insight into how business works and how families work. Our wills and estates team is all about families, businesses and good planning.”

To hear more from Julia about permitting other people to complete transactions on your behalf and to explore ways to manage your risk when delegating authority, register for a free webinar on how to use powers of attorney effectively, to be held on Thursday April 30, 10:30 am – 11:15 am.

Original Article published by Karyn Starmer on The RiotACT.

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