The team at Dixon Stewart wish you all a happy, healthy 2014.

We shall, as always, be starting off the New Year with a number of resolutions. From a legal point of view your top resolution is to make sure your affairs are in order.

This involves a number of things:

Firstly, is your Will up to date or is it time to make your first Will having thought about it for a little while? A Will gives your friends and family the peace of mind of knowing exactly what your wishes are in relation to your assets. It helps them at what is a very difficult time. At Dixon Stewart we will be happy to review your Will with you or to help you in preparing a new Will.

Secondly, do you have Lasting Powers of Attorney in place in relation to both your property and financial affairs and your health and welfare. Lasting Powers of Attorney were first introduced in 2007. There has been an increase in the number of Lasting Powers of Attorney that are being made every year. One of the reasons for this is that many of us are living for a lot longer and cannot always carry on looking after our finances or carry on making decisions about our health. Lasting Powers of Attorney give your family or your professional advisers if you have no family authority to act on your behalf if the need arises. You are not giving up your independence in having Lasting Powers of Attorney as they will only ever be used if absolutely necessary. They are like insurance policies – you take them out and then put them away until they are needed. Lasting Powers of Attorney will give you the peace of mind of knowing that if you ever become incapable of dealing with your own finances or health and welfare you have appointed someone you trust to act on your behalf. One of the things I have noticed more and more this year is that health care professionals are asking people if they have Lasting Powers of Attorney in place. If you do not then in the event of you losing mental capacity these health care professionals have no need to listen to your family when important decisions are being made about your care. I recently met with a family whose father was being moved 40 miles away to a nursing home chosen by the Local Authority even though that made it impossible for their mother aged 92 years to visit him. Because the family did not have a health and welfare Lasting Power of Attorney their wishes were ignored. Many people have third party mandates on their accounts so that their children can deal with banking on their behalf. These third party mandates end in the event of loss of mental capacity and your children will only be able to act if there is a Lasting Power of Attorney in relation to your property and financial affairs (or Enduring Power of Attorney (pre-2007)) in place. At Dixon Stewart we are happy to talk to you about the Lasting Powers of Attorney in order to decide whether you should have these documents in place.

We hope that we can be of service to you in 2014 for the above matters or for any other legal matters including your house move, equity release, mortgage matters, family matters including divorce, separation and contact with your children, employment issues or any personal injury claims.