What Happens if you die without a Will

Dying Without A Will

Dying without a will

Dying without a will (intestate) in Alberta means that all of your assets and property that remain will be dispersed as per the Wills and Succession Act. It can leave loved ones in a lurch and means that intentions that you may have had do not get carried out. It is one reason why establishing a will early in life is so important. If you are looking for wills and estates lawyers in Edmonton, then look no further than Verhaeghe Law Office. Our law office in Edmonton will be able to help you compose your will so that your property and assets will not be forced under the Wills and Succession Act.

If you do not make a will, then your assets will be divided up as follows. It is important to remember that the Wills and Successions Act does not take into consideration any special situation or specific needs of the remaining family, which can result in unfair situations.

If you die and leave behind a spouse, either no children or only children you had with that spouse, and have no children from a different spouse, then all of your assets and property transfers to your spouse.

If you die with children left behind but no living spouse then your children will receive equal shares of your property and assets. If any of these children have died before you but have children of their own (your grandchildren), then the percentage of your assets that would have gone to your child will be divided equally amongst the grandchildren or child.

If you die and have surviving spouse or a common-law partnership, as well as children from a different spouse you had throughout your lifetime, your assets will be split up as follows: 50% of your assets, or other amount set out by the act (whichever is greater), will go to your current surviving spouse, the remaining assets you have will be split up between your children. Again, if there are any children who have passed away previous to you who produced grandchildren, then their share of your estate will be passed down to the grandchildren.

If you do not have a spouse, children, or any other descendants when you pass away, then your estate will go to your next of kin. First, it will go to your parents in equal shares or to one single surviving parent. If both of your parents have passed away it will go to your brothers and sisters as well as to the children of any deceased brothers and sisters that you have - your nieces and nephews receiving equal portions of their parent's share.

If you have no spouse, children, grandchildren or further descendants, parents, brother, sisters, nieces or nephews, then it would pass to any remaining blood relatives in this fashion: grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins. If there is no traceable next of kin available to inherit your property and assets, then the entirety of your estate would end up going to the Alberta government, where they would be used to provide university scholarship funding or funding for research.

Establishing a will means that the people who need your estate the most have access to it. You do not want you loved ones to be put in a difficult situation because you failed to establish a will that works. You need a will, and the Probate Lawyers in Edmonton at Verhaeghe Law Office want to help you create one; having drafted some of the most complex Wills in Alberta, they know what to put in a will and what to leave out. Contact us today and protect your loved ones!

Top 10 Reasons to Hire A Builders Lien Lawyer

Top 10 Reasons to Hire A Builders Lien Lawyer

Builders Lien Lawyer
If you find yourself in a situation where you've done the work for a client and they refuse to pay, you may need a builders lien lawyer. Here are 10 ways a builders lien lawyer can help you sort things out and get your money from a client.

Let's say you just finished a $500k improvement job on a home in Alberta, but the wiseguy owner just lost all his money trading bitcoin.

Now you have to figure out how to get the money back for all the supplies, labour, and time you just spent.

You do some research, and you find out there's something called a Builders Lien. Carefully recording all the proper information and supplying sufficient documentation, you submit a Claim of Lien to the Land Title Office.

Uh oh. Several days later, you hear back that you didn't supply sufficient information about the location, nor do you have any time left to file.

The truth is that errors and omissions are historically the biggest reason why legal disputes in construction lead to a loss, so it's no wonder that mistakes could happen when claiming a lien.

Enter the builders lien lawyer.

In this article, we're going to show you ten reasons why a builders lien lawyer will help you say goodbye to all the tricky paperwork and secure your money back before it's all gone.

1. Your Job is Hard Enough

For starters, running a business consumes your life.

When you're out there grinding, you're in the world of action and transaction, not intensive paperwork, deadlines and legal theory.

How can you expect to have the time to sort all of this out on your own?

The Builders Lien Act of Alberta has 51 pages in it alone, each page filled top-to-bottom with unique vocabulary entries and their specific regulations, references, and exceptions.

And those exceptions are mind-boggling, by the way.

Though there are more than you can count on all your fingers and toes, one popular misconception about builders liens is that you always have 45 days from the time the job was completed to file.

This information is wrong in two ways.

  1. The clock doesn't start ticking when you complete the job; it starts when the last services, materials, or wages were provided (i.e., when any last "certificate of completion" was issued).
  2. For jobs involving minerals or resources like oil, you have 90 days to submit the lien claim.

Also, the definition of "owner" in the Builders Lien Act is weird. There may be more than one person you need to lien.

Our lawyers have studied all these little rules over and over again in their many years of practice and have appeared at all levels of Court in Alberta including the Alberta Court of Appeal.

Dont't waster your time - It's much better to lien on someone you can trust. (No pun intended).

2. You Need to Properly Enforce the Lien

Even if you manage to file a lien on your own, you're not guaranteeing that you get your money back unless you're prepared to go to court yourself.

Not long ago, the Supreme Court ruled that if you don't get a lis pendens registered on title within 180 days of filing your lien, the lien disappears.

A lis pendens (in Latin, literally "hanging litigation" or "pending lawsuit") is essentially a notice to all involved parties that litigation is under way in the construction site ONCE you have filed a Statement of Claim with the Court of Queen's Bench.

Once you get the Statement of Claim and your lis pendens, you have then have a limited amount of time to move the action forward.

A builders lien lawyer can help facilitate every end of this process, from issuing the Statement of Claim to the actual civil suit.

3. Time is Short

A few months to handle all these technicalities just isn't enough.

The sooner you get a lawyer, the smoother the ball rolls.

A lawyer (especially ours, abounding with skill and experience) will swiftly sort through the formalities of your case.

As soon as you get a lawyer, they will immediately start working on a strong case for you. If you wait too long, you may end up suffering a sub-par case.

On the other hand, the other party may be cooking up a stronger case while you're waiting around, wondering whether you should bother with an attorney.

The longer you wait, the higher the chances are some paperwork essential to the case goes missing.

4. There's a Ridiculous Amount of Misinformation About Builders Liens and Builders Lien Lawyers

Some people will try to claim that there's no use in hiring a builders lien lawyer, since you can just do it all yourself.

If we haven't already proved that kind of statement to be absolutely asinine, here's the icing on the cake: most articles about builders liens aren't accurate.

For example, a lot of people think that builders liens don't apply to architects (spoiler alert: they do).

But wait, there's more!

Fiction: Even if you wait too long to file your lien, you can still claim unjust enrichment on a quantum meruit basis.

Fact: It's incredibly rare that courts find cases of unjust enrichment.

Fiction: The holdback account needs to be jointly in the name of the owner and the contractor.

Fact: Just because Section 5(1)(c) of the Builders Lien Act says that the account must be made together, it does not imply that they must form a joint account.

Doubt they'd want to, honestly.

Fiction: You cannot file a lien against the land or estate of the Crown.

Fact: If the land is registered in the Land Title Office, you can file a lien against it albeit a different process when it comes to liening mines and minerals which includes oil and gas wells, which we have done one numerous occasions.

Not only are we aware of these complications, but we understand them thoroughly and can apply them to a wide variety of cases.

A builders lien lawyer isn't just useful, it's often necessary.

5. The Paperwork isn't Easy

To file a lien, you can't just provide the address where you did the work. That's not going to cut it.

For good reason, the protocol for builders liens is extremely strict.

To create an initial Claim of Lien, here are some of the things you'd need:

  1. a proper legal description of the land to which improvements were made;
  2. the full legal name of the owner(s) of the land (remember, the "owner" thing is messy);
  3. the type of interest you're claiming;
  4. the type of services or materials employed;
  5. the full legal name(s) of any parties involved in the contract;
  6. the date of work last completed in the land;
  7. the total amount being claimed for the lien.

That's just a fraction.

To spice things up, the "total amount" you can claim isn't so straightforward.

You need a lawyer you can trust to handle these things, as they quickly pile up and evolve monstrously.

6. Holdbacks are Dicey

In case you were sick of hearing all the nonsense surrounding builders liens, here's another example to add to the confusion.

Even for those of Canadian law firms, pretty much every website messes up how holdbacks work.

In the event that a contractor or supplier enforces a lien on their property, the owner doesn't break their bank trying to pay it off because they have the holdback.

It's repeated over and over that 10% of the work value is the amount that the owner retains as insurance that the work will be completed.

This isn't exactly true.

The 10% comes out of whichever is greater: the value of the work or material provided in the improvement, or the amount of any payment made on account of the contract price.

Also, the Act doesn't prevent holdbacks over 10%. There is also a Minor Lien and Fund and a Major Lien fund, which often gets over looked.

The particulars about value and payback as far as holdbacks go aren't clear on the surface, so an established builders lien lawyer can help you set up perfect contracts.

7. Be Proactive About Builders Liens

It's been shown that Canadian businesses are the least mindful of preventative legal action than their global neighbours.

The best businesses worldwide, whether small firms or humongous corporations, ensure they have access to substantial protection long before any trouble gets involved.

If you're stuck with a lousy client, hiring a lawyer will take precious time that could be used towards bettering your chances of claiming a lien.

On top of that, having a lawyer around is pleasant.

It means no more contracts or complexities, no more law research, and no more dull headaches.

8. ...But If You're in Trouble, Builders Lien Lawyers Can Help, Too

If you're at risk of major financial losses on account of a client's irresponsibility, a lawyer can help minimise the damages.

Just because time is short doesn't mean it's too late. The most important thing is that you take action and honestly present your case.

In most cases, you can resolve an initial dispute via negotiation with the involved parties.

But when there's a stirring in the pot, it'll do you no good to try to handle it on your own, since a simple a mistake can nullify your lien entirely.

9. There are Penalties When You Don't Do It Right

Let's say, again, you try to do all the filing on your own.

You messed up the description of the land, and so now the lien attaches to a different property.

Fun! Under the Act, you're now liable for "costs and damages incurred of any estate or interest in the land as a result of the wrongful filing of the claim of lien."

If you don't follow the certain procedures outlined by the Act at any point, your lien will be terminated.

We have a stellar reputation of providing services of the utmost quality. We've been eminent players in the realm of construction law, putting in years of experience towards filing and enforcing builders liens - protecting both owners and contractors, working hard for our clients to both advance and defend claims in civil court.

On one hand, you can risk losing even more money handling it yourself, or you can get an experienced civil lawyer to do it for you.

It's as simple as that.

10. Any Questions?

Probably the best thing about having a builders lien lawyer around is that you never have to turn to Google about legal issues anymore.

Whether it's about a personal uncertainty, a contract detail, or a major real estate decision, a good lawyer will provide thorough, simple answers to any question you may have and can come up with a strategy to advance your interests or minimize any liability to you.

Not sure you're asking for a bona fide lien amount or holdback rate?

Need to find out whether there's a builders lien on a property before you start construction on it?

How do you properly file your Statement of Claim or lis pendens?

Or even, how can you best negotiate with your business partner to avoid enforcing a lien?

These are all very serious questions whose answers largely depend on the circumstances of your business.

Rather than racking your brain over the hundreds of variables that affect each and every decision, why not let a professional do it instead?

Bonus: A Lawyer is Less Expensive than Not Having One

If you're running around searching for help in the final hour of a crucial deadline, you'll end up paying way more than you should have.

On top of that, nothing will cost you more than hiring an inexperienced lawyer.

You need a lawyer that is:

  • efficient. We know that, as a businessperson, your demands are extremely urgent.
  • understanding. Always be truthful with us. We maintain a policy of honesty and hard work to ensure your business in good hands.
  • knowledgeable. Our team of highly dedicated professionals are sharp as a tack, with a track record of experience and excellent research.
  • reputed. We don't need to talk to the talk. We walk a long line of amazing clients who recommend our services above all others.
  • articulate. Not only can we break down any legal question you may have, our lawyers are seriously persuasive having spent many 1000s of hours in courtrooms all across Alberta.
  • friendly. We're never prone to frustration with our clients.
  • flexible. No matter the complexity of the situation at hand, we will apply ourselves wholeheartedly to your well-being.

Builders Lien Lawyers: We're Here to Help

It's clear that the Alberta legislation regarding builders liens will make you want to pull your hair out.

Luckily, we are hear to help.

Questions? Concerns?

Don't hesitate to get in touch. Give us a call or drop us a message, you will be happy you did.

Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer

Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer

Personal Injury Lawyer
If ever you're involved in a car accident or something happens and you're hurt, you'll want to have a personal injury lawyer on speed dial. Still hesitant about finding an attorney? We have 10 reasons why you should reconsider your stance on hiring a personal injury lawyer.

In 2017 alone, motor vehicle collisions caused 160,315 personal injuries.

The odds of a motor vehicle or workplace incident happening to you are low. If it does, though, it can be a difficult legal battle to receive the financial compensation you deserve.

Whether or not you have a top-rated personal injury lawyer on your side could make the difference between receiving financial compensation or not.

When Would I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?

You might need a personal injury lawyers when you get hurt by someone else, either directly or indirectly.

A direct injury is called an intentional harm or tort. If someone becomes angry and breaks their friend's leg by pushing them down a staircase, the other friend can sue for intentional harm.

Negligence is an indirect harm or tort. If a customer falls on a slippery floor, the restaurant didn't directly make the customer fall, but they were negligent because they did not put up a wet floor sign. Any injuries the customer suffers from are the restaurant's fault.

Most claims are not settled in court but instead through an informal settlement between the two parties before a case formally begins in court. No matter what the situation, though, having a personal injury lawyer will always lead to the best outcome.

Read on for the 10 reasons you need to hire a personal injury lawyer.

1. Personal Injury Lawyers Have Experience

While most people will only suffer from one or two accidents during their life, personal injury lawyers deal with cases like yours on a daily basis. They know the ins and outs of the court system and know what is best to do.

Lawyers must spend a total of seven years in undergraduate and post-graduate school, and most have years of experience before handling a personal injury case on their own.

Knowing that a lawyer must be well versed in order to take care of your claim should make it easy to trust them with your case.

2. Red Tape Can be Overwhelming

Unfortunately, just because someone has wronged you doesn't mean you are automatically entitled to financial compensation. You have to go through civil procedures to formalize your request and prove the other person's fault.

And you probably haven't had to deal with civil litigation before and may struggle with the seemingly endless paperwork, tiring court meetings, and strange vocabulary. Lawyers specialize in this and know how to thrive despite it.

Here are just some of the words, phrases, and abbreviations personal injury lawyers use daily:

  • ADR
  • Act of God
  • IRBs
  • Quid Pro Quo
  • Exhaustion of Benefits
  • Pecuniary Damages

Although you may know some of these terms, understanding all of them and using them yourself can be difficult while trying to recover from your injury. A personal injury lawyer is an expert red tape cutter, and moving your claim to the next step will be a breeze.

3. Lawyers Also Work As Investigators

While you may be able to argue your case well, a lawyer can take it to the next level with more hard evidence only they can find.

In TV shows and movies, lawyers are often shown working late nights and early mornings to study their client's case. They research topics, contact witnesses, and deduce the truth in hopes to help their client.

Believe it or not, lawyers do this in real life too.

As advanced researchers and logical thinkers, you can trust a personal injury lawyer to find the evidence and testimonies they need to prove your claim. Some lawyers even have their own investigative team to do this work with them.

4. Personal Injury Lawyers Let You Relax

You just had an accident. Whether it was a major car wreck or a broken bone at work, you are in pain, and letting your body heal should be your first priority.

Maybe it was some kind of emotional pain, and now it's hard to focus on anything at all.

If you don't take a moment to deal with this pain, your suffering will only prolong itself. The very last thing you need to be doing is worrying about your case.

A situation like this why it is so important to let a personal injury lawyer take care of you and your claim.

Because the case will go quicker and smoother, you'll have time to focus on yourself and breathe. Before long, you'll return to your hobbies, family, and work, because of your personal injury lawyer.

5. You'll Recieve Higher Compensation

During a settlement, a plaintiff has a better chance to receive more money if they have a lawyer than if they do not. There are a few reasons this is the case.

  • Insurance companies, defendants, judges, and juries take a case more seriously if a lawyer is involved in it. They know a lawyer will be able to hold them accountable and do what is necessary for their client.
  • Lawyers have quality experience in personal injury cases. As said before, their experience helps makes the claim process easier, but it also means they know what to do to make sure you get the correct financial compensation.
  • Personal injury lawyers are also master negotiators. It's not enough to win a case; a lawyer can make sure you win and receive the right amount of money.

While your claim is not only about receiving financial compensation, it is a large part of it, and you'll want to make sure you have enough to cover your legal fees, lost income, hospital bills, and anything else that may come up.

6. Personal Injury Lawyers Speed Cases Up

You've probably heard horror stories of court cases dragging on for years and costing plaintiffs thousands of dollars.

This is not far-fetched.

In fact, the longest court case in Canadian history lasted from 1992-2015, and while yours probably won't last quite that long with or without a lawyer, you could be waiting months or years longer on your settlement without the expertise of a personal injury lawyer.

Settling a claim is a time-consuming process as well. Letting an injury haunt you for a long time will make free time hard to come by and work more exhausting.

A personal injury lawyer will be able to take care of your case much more quickly, and because it's part of their job, you'll be able to get back to yours.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Personal injury lawyers can also make sure you don't have to deal with a frustrating trial. Instead, they may be able to help the two parties use an ADR, a settlement made outside of court.

There are a few different types of ADRs.

  • Arbitration can be thought of as a mini-trial. The two parties will choose a neutral third party to serve as the judge of their trial. They will present their evidence, and the third party makes a decision they agreed to accept beforehand.
  • Mediation is similar to attribution, but the parties can accept or reject the compromise the mediator, the neutral third party, makes. If either party rejects it, the two parties may use another ADR or move to trial.
  • Negotiation is a situation in which two parties attempt to compromise without a third party. Usually, this step will always be taken whether formally or not.
  • Conciliation asks a third party to meet with the two other parties separately. In these meetings, the conciliator tries to calm each party down. This method is less formal but useful when tensions are high.
  • Neutral Evaluation is similar to mediation, but the third party gives suggestions and not a potentially binding settlement. The third party here is usually a neutral lawyer and helpful for legally complex issues.

An ADR will not only save your time but also your money. Court fees and trial lawyers are expensive, but an ADR will keep you from paying for them. A personal injury lawyer will work to give your claim a chance outside of court.

7. You might not have to pay anything

When deciding whether or not to hire a personal injury lawyer, many people worry about the cost of hiring one, and this makes sense. Some lawyers charge hundreds of dollars per hour, and spending money that you may not be able to pay unless you win can be frightening.

This isn't always the case though.

Many personal injury lawyers do not charge you for their fees if they do not win the case. This is called a contingency fee and is settled before the lawyer takes the case officially.

Lawyers who work for firms or have a lot of cases are able to do this because they win enough cases to pay for the ones they lose. If they win 9 out of 10 cases, they can afford losing one.

Using this strategy, attorneys can open up their services to cases with plaintiffs who are worried about affording a lawyer. This gives them more business and, in the long run, more money.

If you find the right attorney, there is no risk in losing money when you hire a personal injury lawyer to take over your case.

8. Lawyers will be more rational

When someone has wronged us, it can be easy to see it from our perspective alone or be overly frustrated. Simply thinking about the situation can be painful.

This is an easy trap to fall into when dealing with personal injury claims, especially in intentional harm. We may make decisions based only on emotions and not on what is best for the situation.

Letting a lawyer take care of your case will help make sure the most logical decisions are being made. While they care about you and your case, they have not been hurt personally, meaning they will see the situation through an objective lens.

Being so close to the case may also continue to emotionally hurt you, but a lawyer will be able to think more clearly about it. For personal and legal reasons, having a personal injury lawyer is the safest bet.

9. Insurance companies are difficult

Insurance companies ironically do not want to give their clients money when they need it. Although their entire business is based on the promise that they will give the money back to their clients, it can be difficult to make them keep that promise.

Insurance companies have professionals working for them, and you should too. Just like a personal injury lawyer, insurance lawyers deal with cases like yours daily.

It is their job to make sure they give you as little money as possible. Don't let them take away the money that rightfully belongs to you by throwing confusing words and complex terms at you.

Going to court against an insurance company alone is not a safe bet, but a personal injury lawyer will do wonders against the insurance company's attorneys. Your claim will be taken more seriously, and the possibility that you get your insurance money increases.

10. Personal Injury Lawyers Want to Win Just as Much as You Do

Although it might seem obvious, it can be easy to forget that personal injury lawyers want you to win your case. They make their livelihood through cases like yours and will do everything they can to make sure you win, even if the odds are stacked against you.

Winning a case gives them money and also helps their reputation. With a better reputation and more money, personal injury lawyers can continue to grow in their business.

Losing, on the other hand, does the opposite for them. Losing has negative consequences for a lawyer, maybe even more than you would have.

With this in mind, it should be easy to hand over your case to a personal injury lawyer. As a team, you and your attorney can work together to settle your case and continue your healing process.

Next Steps

Understanding the importance of having a personal injury lawyer is not the end of the line. The next step is to find a lawyer, and while searching, "lawyers near me" might work, we suggest visiting our contact page to speak with us today.

And, if you're still not convinced, explore our blog to find out more about working with a lawyer.

Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you're facing criminal charges, you should really consider hiring a criminal defense lawyer. In fact, here are 10 reasons why hiring a criminal defense lawyer is one of the smartest decisions you can make in regards to your legal troubles.

Yes, there are a lot of people who do represent themselves in court and make it out okay. There are just as many people who end up losing their case on technicalities or even improper court procedures. When it comes to criminal cases, you do not want to go into court unprepared.

There is a long list of procedures to be followed when going to court. When the stakes are higher than a simple fine or parking ticket, you need to have a criminal defense lawyer in your corner.

Let's take a closer look at why lawsuits are harder to win while self-representing and why the chances of winning are higher with a lawyer.

Distinguishing Civil Law and Criminal Law

Entering civil litigation will always deal with two or more private parties against each other. In contrast, criminal litigation pits you versus the state or federal government. A criminal defense lawyer can argue in your favour whether any crime was committed or that it was a misdemeanour, not a felony (indictable offense).

For reference, a misdemeanour is categorized as a minor offence, such as a traffic ticket, petty theft, or small possession of an illegal substance. A felony always includes a prison sentence which often carries a punishment of at least one year in jail. The offences range from violent crimes of rape, assault, and murder to non-violent crimes of forgery, drug trafficking, and grand theft.

The burden of proof is also much higher for criminal law than civil law. To win a civil lawsuit, the plaintiff needs to only prove that the defendant is 51% liable for damages incurred (balance of probablities). Criminal lawsuits can only be won when the prosecution can prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the defendant committed the crime.

Without proper evidence on your side, you could be falsely charged and convicted without physical evidence. That's just the tip of the iceberg. Here are ten more reasons why you need to hire a criminal defense lawyer.

10 Advantages of a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Win your case in court with confidence with everything that a criminal defense team can bring to the table.

1. Law Can Be Treacherous

Navigating law by yourself can be long and almost endless. It's like peeling back layers of an onion with only your hands. You might get the surface figured out, but after that, you'll have to deal with a lot of pain and confusion.

Not only is the law written in such a complicated and foreign format, it is constantly changing. You need a criminal defense lawyer to avoid getting trapped in legal loopholes or self-incriminating tactics. Lawyers have to undergo over a years of dedicated learning, practicing, and updating their knowledge of the law.

2. Following Procedures

Every step you take while fighting a criminal case gets scrutinized and potentially penalized. A good lawyer is not going to let you compromise your own defense before even setting foot in court. There's a ton of paperwork and only one proper way of processing them.

These legal hurdles are often an artificial block preventing access to courts by those disadvantaged. Many prosecutors will use this fact to their advantage. This is easily observed in the appeals process, which can bury the accused in litigation and paperwork.

The courts often contain bottlenecks, rigid deadlines, and procedures that can rob you of personal responsibilities. A good law firm can put together entire teams that work together to make sure all the T's get crossed and I's get dotted. The prosecution has the full power and resource of the state behind them; make sure you have a dedicated team on your side to counter the formidable resource the government can bring to bear against you. As a matter of fact, you are more likely to win a plea bargain because the government values quick judgments over long, uncertain cases when they know they are up against a seasoned and experienced lawyer.

3. Over-budgeting Can Cost You

You should consider hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer. If you insist on self-representing to save on lawyer fees, you could shoot yourself in the foot. The margin for error is small when preparing for court. If you miss-file or miss a deadline, you will pay.

You will not only lose on the time it took to file, you'll also get hit with heavy fees. With a criminal trial, you literally can't afford to make a mistake. All that money you saved by self-representing will mean nothing in jail. A good lawyer is going to eliminate these variables based on human error.

Emotions often get in the way of defending ourselves. This is especially true when our freedom is at stake. It's okay to be emotional when accused of something you did not do. Leave these emotions for after the verdict is decided in your favour.

4. Losing a Case, But Still Winning

Even with the evidence piled high against your case, a lawyer can work miracles. There are various perks to being an experienced lawyer, one of those is tenacity. They can present a convincing argument towards the judge and jury to minimize charges.

Instead of years in prison, they can offer to bargain for alternative sentencing. This can mean the difference between keeping your employment and losing it all.

Alternative sentencing can include house arrest, community service, work furlough programs, diversion, and rehabilitation programs. All of these alternatives look better on your record, as well. A convicted felon that has never spent time in jail is seen as more trustworthy than one who has.

Maybe the crime was committed out of ignorance or coercion. On paper, your crime deserves the time. An empathetic judge may see things differently, thanks to a convincing lawyer.

5. Pre-trial Motions and Settlements

A criminal defense lawyer can help you get justice in your case without ever stepping foot into court. As a matter of fact, 90% of criminal trials are decided in pretrial. The lawyer can plea bargain a lighter settlement in exchange for a guilty plea.

There are a number of reasons why a guilty plea is in your best interest. You could be stuck in jail for months if you cannot post bail. The length of the trial itself could last months, racking up more fees along the way.

Trying to plea bargain without representation is not recommended. Prosecutors will take advantage of you. Only a criminal defense lawyer can get you the justice you deserve.

6. "Who You Know" Matters

Experience buys you time, expediency, and also favours. A criminal defense attorney works closely with judges, prosecutors, and legal clerks. This can result in relationships that work towards your benefit. The legal system is filled with overworked personnel that work long hours.

Your lawyer can offer the opposition and the judge the gift of a lighter caseload if they cooperate. This can be very useful for criminal trials regarding small businesses. White-collar crime is not prioritized over serious crimes, such as rape or murder.

A good lawyer is going to protect you against unfair trials, erroneous filings, and other tricks to earn a conviction. The prosecution will often present fines instead of jail time as an automatic victory for more convictions. We're here to let you know that is far from the truth. The goal should always be dismissal.

7. Combing Through Evidence

When a case has a lot of evidence to sort through and verify, human error becomes a huge factor. The handling of evidence also becomes a concern for any criminal trials. Many police stations and law offices are understaffed, which can result in loss or tampering of evidence.

You need a good criminal defense team that can go through each piece of evidence filed. All evidence must follow basic procedures in order to be deemed valid in court. If any inconsistencies or fabrications are detected, this can result in a complete dismissal in your favour.

When a case goes to trial, you need to be able to ask the right questions regarding testimonies and evidence. Any holes or contradictions discovered in the prosecution can sway a verdict. Evidence must be irrefutable and incontrovertible to truly stand up in criminal court.

If you are a fervent viewer of Judge Judy, for example, you will notice that much of the evidence presented gets thrown out. This is just what happens in civil courts, the bar is even higher in criminal litigation.

Legal exceptions to evidence include:

  • Former Testimony
  • Statement Against Interest
  • Hearsay
  • Obtained by Oppression
  • Obtained Without a Warrant
  • Tampering, Falsification, and Spoliation

These are just a few examples of how evidence can be tossed out. There are sets of rules that apply to Provincial and Federal law. The judge has a lot of power with regards to the dismissal of evidence if they determine that it will compromise the case's integrity.

Rules of evidence are put in place to keep jurors honest and as impartial as possible. A judge can advise a jury to discount certain evidence to retain relevance, rationality, efficiency, reliability, and overall fairness of the process.

8. Access to Professionals and Experts

An experienced lawyer has many tools at their disposal, including professional contacts that help make a convincing argument. Having a professional or expert in an industry enhances credibility. These testimonies can also provide education to the judge and jury that helps them see things differently.

Without the help of a lawyer, the cost of hiring an expert witness becomes astronomical. You may over-pay or hire someone over-qualified; a good lawyer will know what you need and how much it should cost.

The types of professionals that a defense attorney utilizes extends to private investigators, as well. This can be vital for winning a case that is based on loose physical evidence. These contacts and decisions are often made in quick succession, giving you the best chance at building your defense.

9. Keep Your Record Clean

Your criminal record will follow you for the rest of your life. A criminal record can result in denial of employment, public housing, and various government assistance. It is very difficult to expunge a record, so your priority is prevention.

Even if hiring a criminal defense attorney puts you into debt, it's worth saving your record. Whether you get a public victor or a quiet dismissal, the outcome is the same. If you lose a case, an attorney can still help you by arguing for the conviction to stay off your record.

Not a lot of people realize this exception in criminal law. A criminal defense lawyer will also know needs to be done to expunge these charges. Even if your case is acquitted or dismissed, you can still have it on your record.

10. Nothing to Lose

There are no downsides to contacting an attorney and inquiring about your case. Any reputable attorney will offer a free telephone consultation for their services. Just having access to professional legal advice is valuable. A quick telephone call can save you a lot of stress, worrying and confusion.

They can provide insight as to just how much it will cost you to go to trial. Then, you can weigh the risks and what you'll really save by going solo. If your case is not winnable, we would not advise going to trial. Get justice fast and place faith in those working to keep your record clean.

Building Your Defense

Time is of the essence in a criminal defense case. You need to be building your case immediately upon being served your papers. Actually, hiring a criminal defense lawyer on retainer is ideal.

Do your research on who will be representing you. At Freedom Law, we are fully transparent with our services. You can read through our real testimonials and understand exactly what you will be facing. We offer extensive legal expertise across all major practices: builders liens, divorce, real estate, small business, corporate, civil, and criminal law.

Don't wait any longer, contact us today and gain peace of mind with your legal matters.

How To Have Peace & Prenuptial Agreement

How To Have Peace - And A Prenuptial Agreement

Prenuptial Agreement

Making the decision to get married and plan a wedding can be the source of both great joy and huge stress at the same time. Apart from the excitement of starting life with your favorite person, there is a tremendous amount of planning for your special day as well as for the rest of your life. Our team of lawyers is adept at guiding you and your spouse through the sometimes difficult or emotionally awkward legal process of creating a prenuptial agreement.

How To Approach Your Future Spouse About A Prenuptial Agreement

First and foremost, you wish to protect your partner and their best interests because they matter more to you than most anything else. While it may seem impossible to imagine that this could ever change, wishing to ensure they are protected and secure in their future is a part of entering into marriage.

Another way to think about it is, creating a prenuptial agreement has similar reasoning as a formal will — you’ll no longer be there to protect them or vice versa. If the relationship should end, being able to think clearly and calmly about these plans may not be within reach at the time. Take care of these arrangements early and peacefully.

Talk to one another about your prenuptial agreement as a deeper promise to your love, that you trust it’s longevity. Enter this process knowing that if your marital bond should ever change, right now you wish for each other to feel protected and secure. Equally, remember that you make the prenuptial agreement based on what best fits your lifestyle, and that the prenup can be set for a specific time frame instead of open-ended. The purpose is to best match whatever makes you both feel comfortable and secure.

A prenuptial agreement is not a damaging contract for your love; it is a way to honor your partner’s future before it may feel too challenging to do so, which we hope never happens.

Reasons To Seek A Prenuptial Agreement

There are many reasons to seek a prenuptial agreement, which all point to the same desire: peace and security.

For example, if you intend to have children, a prenuptial agreement is essential not only to your own security but more importantly, to theirs. Should split custody enter into your family’s future, ensuring both homes have the best resources for raising your children is essential.

A prenuptial agreement also...

  • Provides peace of mind
  • Protects your assets and future
  • Protects your children and spouse’s future
  • Avoids extending divorce proceedings
  • Helps you both learn the financial obligations of divorce and establishes your finances together before entering into marriage
  • Teaches compromise around difficult topics while starting your marriage
  • Protects the family business, heirlooms, and estates to ensure their future within your family’s lineage
  • Makes the tough choices about pets before a hard and/or unexpected change to your family dynamic

There are many other reasons than the list above to make prenuptial agreements, such as if your spouse is much wealthier or indebted, if you own a business together, own multiple properties, etc. No matter what the reason, there is always a peaceful and productive way to have that conversation and come to amicable and respectful choices.

Preparing Your Prenuptial Agreement

  • Debt: Is there any, and if so, how much?
  • Credit score: Is it good, bad or in the middle? Will it affect the ability to rent or own a home?
  • Assets: Are you wealthier than your spouse? Do you have inheritance or trust funds to protect? Everything has to be out in the open.
  • Future Purchases: Do you plan to buy a home, cars, vacation property, boats, etc. together?
  • Children: Do you plan to raise children together? You cannot decide on custody through a prenuptial agreement, but you can determine the ways to support your children financially, beyond the marriage.
  • Income: Will one of you be the primary source of income while the other stays at home with the children? Either way, but especially if one spouse stays home, discussing alimony and child support beforehand is very important.

Learn More About Prenuptial Agreements

While divorce rates are unfortunately high, the percentage of Canadians who cover their major assets with prenuptial agreements is exceedingly low. Verhaeghe Law Office will walk you and your future spouse through every step of the prenuptial agreement process, ensuring both parties are well informed and comfortable. Communication, preparedness and honesty will make the entire process run smoothly and help keep emotions calm. Our lawyers are here to represent both of your best interests, and will do so astutely. For more information about how Verhaeghe Law Office can guide you through a peaceful prenuptial process, please contact us by giving us a call at (587) 410-2500.

Custody Battles & Your Child

Custody: Keeping the Child’s Needs in Mind

Custody Battles & Your Child

Your divorce has been all-consuming. The process can be incredibly difficult and now that it’s drawing to a close, child custody is the issue at hand. Custody may have been the last thing on your mind until this point, focusing on getting through the divorce. Preparation will make a big difference in what happens during the custody hearings.

Custody Doesn’t Have to Be a Battle

Custody cases are often called battles, but they don’t have to be. Children have already weathered the effects of the divorce, and the separation of their parents. Custody arrangements will be another hurdle for them in an already difficult situation. The ultimate goal of the custody process is to find the solution that best meets your children’s needs. The court will ultimately decide on custody based on the children’s best interest, so you should be considering that as well.

Considerations

In reaching a decision about custody, the court considers several factors such as:

  • What is in the best interest of the children
  • The children’s wishes, generally if they are age 12 or older
  • The relationship between each parent and the children
  • The ability of each parent to support the children both emotionally and financially
  • Keeping the children in a family together
  • Minimal disruption to the children’s lives
  • The typical schedule of each parent and time available to spend with children
  • Primary caregiving responsibilities before divorce
  • Any special needs of the children
  • The willingness of each parent to work together for the benefit of the children

Emotional Effects of Divorce & Custody in Children

Every child reacts differently to divorce. Young children may believe that if their parents no longer love each other, someday they might stop loving them. They may also believe that their parents will eventually get back together. Children in grade school may blame themselves or their behaviors for the divorce. Acting out and being self-critical is not an uncommon reaction. Teens may be angry and blame one parent, or resent both for the turmoil in their family. They are already dealing with their own struggles with independence and adding divorce and custody into the mix often results in anger. These are simple, general reactions. In contrast, some children may feel relieved by the separation of their parents if their home life was causing anxiety and stress.

Decrease the Shock

Custody outcomes can come as a shock to the children. You may be struggling to deal with your own feelings of anger, sadness, and isolation. It can be overwhelming to think about supporting a child’s emotional upheaval. While you will need to be available to your children, you can find support for yourself through other sources. Talk to your family, friends, or doctor to help you. Look into community programs and support groups to deal with your feelings so you can be emotionally available to your kids.

Discuss divorce and custody with your children. Waiting until it’s over or even nearly over won’t make it easier for them. Some suggestions:

  • If you can, talk to your children together.
  • Talk to them in an environment that makes them comfortable.
  • Plan to talk with your kids more than once. They may need time to digest the information and then ask questions.
  • Invite your children to ask questions and express emotions.
  • Explain things in a way they can understand, based on their age.

You may not be able to handle your children’s emotional reactions alone. Take them to their pediatrician or a counsellor who specializes in children or teens. By giving them an outlet to safely discuss their feelings, they will be better prepared for the inevitable changes to their lives.

Once the divorce and custody are established, children need time to adjust to the changes in their relationships with their parents. All relationships take adjustment, with one parent as the primary caregiver and the other losing the daily contact with their children. Be patient as they work through these changes with your help.

The biggest problem for them may not be your divorce. Your kids are likely already aware of tension between their parents. What will hit them hardest will be the rest of the changes in their lives. The reality hits home when they begin to deal with changes to where they live, adjusting to new financial restrictions, and moving back and forth between homes. Do your best to make these transitions as smooth as possible, and listen for expressions of frustration or desire for changes. Make sure they know you are open to talking about their feelings and give them the time they need to get used to their new living arrangements.

The Best Interests of Your Child

Throughout your divorce and custody proceedings, remember that your children will be affected by your decisions. Keep their best interests in mind from the start and keep the lines of communication open from the beginning. The lawyers in Verhaeghe Law Office are here to help you navigate the processes of family law. Call us at (587) 410-2500.

Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Civil Litigation Lawyer

Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Civil Litigation Lawyer

Hire a civil litigation lawyer
A civil litigation lawyer specializes in a variety of areas such as personal injury, employment and family law, and so much more. If you are someone who likes to have all their bases covered, this type of lawyer will be like your best friend. Read more to find out why you should hire a civil litigation lawyer today.

If you are dealing with some kind of a civil dispute where you and the other person involved can't come to an amicable agreement, one or both of you may decide it's a battle best fought in court. This way, an impartial judge or jury can make a decision.

Of course, the decision making only happens after you've both told your sides of the story and presented your supporting documents or evidence. There is one important component missing in this scenario. The civil litigation lawyers that are representing each client.

You might think that if your case is simple obtaining representation is a waste of money. But that thought process is very wrong. A civil litigator can actually help you save on costs and fees in the long run.

You should always increase your likelihood of winning by hiring a civil litigation lawyer. Continue reading this article and we'll explain why.

What Does a Civil Litigation Lawyer Do?

There are over a dozen types of lawyers. They all specialize in different aspects of the law. So, it's fairly easy to mistake one profession for the other or to simply not understand one's specific services.

But if you need a lawyer, knowing which type will best serve you will help you attain the right professional sooner than later. Not only that, statutes of limitations still play an important role. So, you shouldn't ever waste time while that window shrinks.

Civil litigation lawyers have exceptionally diverse roles which may cause them to work extra long hours. This is especially true during a trial.

They work as their clients' advocate and do what they can to try to obtain the best possible outcome for him or her.

The types of cases a civil litigation lawyer may take are:

  • Environmental law
  • Personal injury claims
  • Medical malpractice
  • Real estate lawsuits
  • Anti-trust litigation
  • Divorce
  • Landlord/tenant disputes
  • Product liability suits
  • Builder's Liens
  • Constructions Liens
  • Mechanics Liens
  • Estate Litigation
  • Shareholders Oppression
  • Business Disputes

You won't typically find a civil litigator who personally tries all these types of cases. Most lawyers will specialize in one or two. They may even refer you to a colleague at their firm if they can't work your case.

And What is Civil Litigation?

Civil Litigation is when two or more people are involved in a legal dispute where one or both feel they are entitled to money or a specific object. Neither party is considered a criminal in a civil litigation, but they can still have to have a trial where they can end up on the witness stand and have to testify under oath.

In these trials, either a judge or jury will make a deciding decision.

The lawyers who specialize in such disputes can also get referred to as litigators or trial lawyers. They represent their clients for various proceedings through the case. Including pretrial hearings, arbitration, and mediations.

Reasons to Hire a Civil Litigation Lawyer

There's a reason average people don't act as their own surgeons, plumbers, and architects. To be good at most jobs, you have to go through a certain amount of training. But the more real-world work experience you obtain, the more skilled you will become.

Most people also don't know enough about the law to go to court or attend a hearing without a lawyer present. The law has man loopholes that are sometimes even difficult for professionals to navigate.

Want more details about why hiring a civil litigation lawyer is in your best interest?

We've listed 10 more reasons:

1. It Could Save You Money

You're probably wondering how a lawyer can save you money when the hiring of the lawyer itself can become rather expensive. Your lawyer can save you money in fines, court costs and penalty fees.

And depending on the type of case they're representing you in, think a divorce or landlord/tenant dispute, winning the case can mean you don't have to pay the person your fighting with or you have to pay them less.

2. You Might Incriminate Yourself

Civil lawyers spend a great deal of time coaching their clients on how to speak in court and there's a reason for it. When it comes to trials, there is such a thing as speaking too much or speaking too honestly.

The majority of people who don't have a background in law don't see it. But that's one of the things that lawyers specialize in.

Your lawyer will go out of their way to keep you from incriminating yourself while you might not be aware of such wrongs.

3. You'll Lower Your Chances of Risk

Obtaining representation from a civil litigation lawyer will increase the odds of things running smoothly throughout the duration of your case. And if something does go wrong, you will have someone in your corner with specialized training that goes beyond your level of expertise.

Your civil litigator will also know how to understand complex contracts and other paperwork the average person would struggle with. They will train you on how to speak in court including a lesson in what to avoid saying.

4. You're Trying to Settle a Spousal Support Case

Settling a spousal support case is almost always guaranteed to be a steep, uphill battle. And it doesn't become easier depending on the side of the battle you're on.

Having an experienced civil litigator by your side can determine whether you do or do not have to make a payment. Just as it can determine whether you will or will not receive one.

If you're already on a tight budget, spousal support can make or break you financially speaking. This can become especially frustrating if you have a child to care for.

5. The Right Lawyer Will Give You Peace of Mind

Yes, you can represent yourself in court, but the majority of the people who do it regret it. This even includes lawyers.

Acting as your own representation case put you in a situation where you're literally too close to the case. Most civil disputes turn into lawsuits because one or both parties were stubborn and inflexible.

Because most people aren't able to bend and negotiate when it comes to their own problems, it's always best to have a real lawyer with you. Not to mention, emotions can seriously cloud your judgment.

6. You're Filing a Discrimination or Sexual Misconduct Suit

Occurrences of discrimination or sexual misconduct rarely ever happen in an easy to prove way like in writing or on videotape. Which means you'll need to have the expertise of a civil lawyer to put a solid case together.

Companies and employers who receive cases such as these spare no expense when it comes to locking down legal representation. To be accused of one of these crimes can ruin not just the business person's reputation, but the brand's too.

Business owners know that consumers often stop buying products or services when bigotry and misconduct come up. So, if you're filing this type of civil suit, you need a civil litigation lawyer who will fight for your rights and won't fall for intimidation.

7. They Know All the Tedious Court Rules and Procedures

Your civil lawyer will know all the ins and outs of court procedures, which there are a lot of. Following these procedures is almost as important as knowing how to correctly argue a case.

You have to be realistic when deciding whether you're going to hire a civil lawyer or represent yourself. A judge won't give you a pass on not abiding by the rules because of your lack of experience.

Additionally, you can't really ask for help in the middle of the trial or use a life-line to call someone. The judge or court staff are not there to help you.

8. You're Fighting a Personal Injury Case

If you were to get into a car accident, for example, chances are you will be too rattled in the beginning to think clearly about what's to come next. And soon after the accident is when you need to know to start collecting evidence to build a strong case.

If you're the injured party, a civil attorney will advise you to take photos of injuries early on before they've healed because of course, the worse an injury looks, the better it will do for your case.

You will also need to begin tracking things like pain and suffering, medical bills, and time missed from work early on. Your attorney will also be able to tell you how much money certain injuries and emotional strain can be worth in a case like this. Meaning, you won't settle for a lesser payment than what's deserved.

If you are on the opposite side of a personal injury case, a good personal injury lawyer will keep you from getting sued for more than you can afford. And if you aren't wrong in the case, they can prevent you having to pay anything at all.

9. The Other Party Has a Lawyer

If the other person that's involved in your civil case has a lawyer, that lawyer will take advantage of you as much as they can. Your lack of experience will be used against you to make you look like you are not credible.

The opposing lawyer can fight dirty to make you incriminate yourself or leave you paying their client more money than the case may have even been worth. Going to court without representation will not necessarily earn you any sympathy with the judge either.

10. You Need Experience on Your Side

When you hire a civil lawyer, their experience is the best tool you'll have at your disposal. Laws can change often which make them complicated. Plus, navigating the courtroom is not as easy or fun as it might look on television. A subtler side of a lawyers job is setting the case up for appeal in case you lose. There job is to advocate your best interest and to make the best case possible for you.

More importantly, your lawyer knows how to file court documents, recognize unfair treatment or bias from a judge. They also know the regulations pertaining to deadlines and the usual protocol for submitting paperwork.

Your lawyer may even have a paralegal or articling studenthelping with these things which also works in your favor. This way, they're able to spend less time filing paperwork and more time advising you.

How Your Typical Civil Litigation Case Works

Civil litigation is often divided into several stages. Although not every case will reach each stage, they are still worth noting.

  • Investigation
  • Pleadings
  • Discovery
  • Settlement or a trial
  • Appeal

Lawyers usually spend the bulk of their time in the discovery state. This is where information that's pertinent to the case is most likely to be discovered.

The means of discovery can include interviews, questioning, interim court application, and subpoenas. Questioning (formerly Discoveries) mainly involve asking questions that must be answered truthfully under the penalty of perjury. While subpoenas are essentially legal demands for data or documentation that can help a case.

The vast majority of cases do not make it to the courtroom. In fact, they are usually settled through conversations between the lawyers and their clients; often on the steps of the courthouse minutes before the trial begins.

It is, however, still possible to settle a case even during an active trial. This can take place even after the Judge has begun deliberations or delivered its verdict.

Lawyers try to keep cases from going to trial as a strategy - especially if they do n0t predict a trial giving their client a good, solid win.

Cases that do go to trial can take several months or several years to resolve.

Hire Your Lawyer Today

Choosing a civil litigation lawyer to represent you in your civil case can be a daunting task. However, it's an important one that should be well thought out and researched.

We have a proven track record of working hard to get the best results for our clients as quickly a possible. Don't wait until it's too late. Contact us today and let's start strategizing.

How to Prepare for a Divorce

How to Prepare for a Divorce

Prepare for a divorce

Divorce is challenging for all parties involved. Children are innocent bystanders who are put in the awkward position of living with one parent while having limited or no visitation with the other parent. Divorce is such an emotional experience that it can be difficult to think or act productively. But, let’s help you prepare for divorce both emotionally and financially so we can set you up in the best position to move on positively in your life.

Get Yourself Organized

Regardless of how you plan to divorce, whether that be through litigation or mediation, it pays to have the proper documents in order for negotiations. Have these documents in hand:

  • Most Recent Taxes
  • Bank Account Statements
  • Brokerage Accounts Statements
  • Credit Card Statements
  • Insurance Policies
  • Retirements Accounts
  • Mortgage Statements
  • Car Loan Statements

Once you have those documents, start creating a budget, so you have an understanding of your current monthly living expenses. Also, create a projected monthly living expense, so you know your budget after you’re divorced and living separately.

Take Control of the Situation

When you get yourself organized, it’s time to call a lawyer who can help formulate a plan to assist you in obtaining what is fairly owed to you. It’s not wise to start negotiating without a lawyer in your corner. We always tell our clients that this is your divorce, don’t be a passive observer.

Instead, be prepared to make your own decisions. It’s our job at Verhaeghe Law Office to lay out your options while having your best interests at heart. When you’re active, you’ll reach a better settlement, it’ll take less time, and it’ll be a less stressful experience.

Keep Lines of Communications Open

Even though it can be challenging when you speak to your spouse, it’s best to think of them as the judge. When presenting your wishes, be respectful and assertive, not manipulative or aggressive. By being cordial throughout the proceedings, you’ll likely have more successful negotiations.

That said, put past problems behind you and focus on the future. If you couldn’t solve the issues during your marriage, you won’t fix them during a divorce. Also, the person who initiates the divorce usually has time on their side. They have had time to move on mentally and emotionally, while the spouse who receives the papers will be shocked. Before it gets to this point, set aside time to talk with your spouse before they’re handed papers. Regardless of the past, being respectful now can go a long way.

What About The Children?

Your children are a crucial part of both you and your spouse’s lives, so it’s never wise to say anything negative about the other person in front of your children. This puts them in the impossible position of feeling guilt, divided loyalties, and fear of showing love toward the parent being ridiculed. Save it for an adult with an empathic ear.

A divorce where both sides can come to an agreement that’s best for all parties involved is an enormous gift for children. We know this is not always the case, but it’s a goal that both parties should strive for.

Factors Judges Consider When Deciding Parental Arrangements

According to the Department of Justice, judges will look at all of the circumstances of a particular child and determine what’s in the child’s best interests, including:

  • The child’s age and needs
  • The child’s views and preferences
  • The relationship that the child has with each parent
  • Any care arrangements that existed before the separation
  • The child’s relationship with siblings, grandparents and other important people
  • The ability of each parent to care for the child
  • The parents’ ability to communicate and co-operate on issues concerning the child
  • The presence or risk of family violence and its impact on parenting abilities or the child’s well-being

It’s also a good idea to create a parenting plan that maps out parenting arrangements for your children. This can be as simple as when your children will be in the care of each parent or who will be the decision-maker. Or, it can be as detailed as setting areas of decision making authority for each parent, along with schedules for holidays, communication, travel, and other aspects.

Learn More

Verhaeghe Law Office is here to help make sense of all chaos a divorce can bring. Preparation is the key. Our lawyers will guide you through the process and work toward an amicable solution that puts you and your children’s best interest first. For more information about how we can help you through this difficult time, please contact us by giving us a call at (587) 410-2500.

The Duties of an Executrix or Executor when Probating an Estate

The Duties of an Executrix or Executor when Probating an Estate

Executor
Estate law regulates the will, probate and other topics related to the death of a loved one. An executrix or executor of an estate is expected to perform specific duties in accordance with this law. Here's an outline of what's involved.

The executor of an estate gets a raw deal. Films and television programs show them meeting the grieving family, reading the will, and disappearing into the night.

In reality, the executor of an estate takes on what may become the equivalent of a job depending on the size and complexity of the state.

When a person dies, he or she is no longer legally allowed to own any property. Stocks, real estate, businesses, and even animals must be transferred to another party. Those who create a will may choose to leave their remaining assets to their family, friends, charity, or a combination of the above.

Carrying out a person's last wishes isn't as simple as reading the will and handing out the items listed. That's why the will nominates an executor for the estate to guide the estate through the legal process and distribute all the assets.

What does an executor of an estate do? Keep reading to find out what's involved in the execution of an estate.

What is an Executor of an Estate?

The executor of an estate is the appointed person who takes over the affairs of a probate estate. You're not appointed randomly: the deceased nominated you when they made their will.

A probate estate is made up of all the assets the deceased person held, whether solely their own or held with other people as tenants in common (jointly owned property does not fall into the estate). The probate application is an application before the court to, in part, obtain a ruling that the will guiding the estate is genuine.

For example, if there's a question about the mental state of the decedent at the time they signed the will, it will be challenged here. If beneficiaries wish to contest the will, it will also be during this process

When the Order of Probate is issued, the person named to adminsiter the estate then begins following the instructions left in the will.

Executor, Executrix, Administrator, and Administratix

Executrix is a dated term referring to a female executor of a will. Administrator and administratix refer to the same thing in the event there is no will and an application for Letters of Adminstration is applied for rather than applying for Probate (when there is a will).

In simpler terminology, the primary difference occurs at the point of appointment. The deceased appoints an executor or executrix. If the decedent fails to name one in their will; or fails to have a will, then the court takes over. A person appointed by the court is an administrator.

Whether executor or administrator, each then take on the same roles. A more common term for this position is Personal Representative of the Estate.

An executor doesn't always act alone. They may choose to hire a probate lawyer to speed up the process, avoid claims made against estates, and avoid personal or legal complications.

What Does an Executor of an Estate Do?

Every will should include six essential parts:

  • Nominated executor
  • Powers granted to the executor
  • Beneficiaries of the will
  • How to distribute property
  • Guardians for minor children
  • Trusts for minor children

Becoming the executor of an estate is both an honor and hard work in equal parts. More importantly, your powers are granted and limited by the decedent in the will, so no two executors find themselves completing the same tasks in the same way.

If you want to avoid the chaos that inevitably comes with probating a will, it's best to follow a process. Rather than list the duties randomly, we chose them to present them in a useful order according to where to start.

1. File Your Copy of the Will with the Probate Court

Your first task is to obtain a copy of the will and file it with your local probate court as part of the Probate Application.

If the decedent owned property in other provinces, you must file probate proceedings in each state by having the Will "sealed" and brought into that jurisdiction.

Beyond this, you must read and understand the contents of the will.

2. Get in Touch with Financial Institutions and Government Agencies

A decedent can't hold a bank account or receive government benefits, so you'll need to report their death.

In most cases, the funeral home will report deaths to the government when they file a death certificate. If not, you'll need to report it to the relevant authorities.

You'll also need to contact all the banks the estate owner holds accounts with to let the bank know about the death.

In an ideal scenario, the bank accounts will be held in a trust, and everything will be rolled over. However, if the estate forgets an account, no one has access until the estate is settled.

3. Set Up a New Bank Account for Incoming and Outgoing Funds>

Start a new bank account for the estate to make life simpler. Any paychecks owed to the decedent are paid here. If there are any recurring bills like mortgage payments or other loans, pay these out of this account as the probate process continues.

4. Set Up Your Inventory, Appraise and File It

Your state may require you to create a detailed inventory of the estate. If it does, get started early.

An inventory is required in part because Alberta requires a full appraisal of the estate to ascertain the total cash value. Only when the real cash value is estimated can the court be sure the estate will be divided equally.

Appraisals also help the government assess the correct taxes.

Who completes the appraisal? It may be you. Executors and administrators may be required to estimate the cash value of the decedent's liquid assets. These assets include investments, bank accounts and valuable property like real estate.

Non-cash assets like art, antiques, or businesses may need a professional appraisal. Real Estate Appraisers are also required for all real estate holdings as well.

5. Obtain the Order For Probate

Once the Application is filed, the beneficiaries will be served with a copy of the application which will include a copy of the will, a copy of the inventiory; and, a copy of proposed distribution and name of Personal Representative. If no one contestes the will, after a short period, the Probate Judge will simply issue an Order of Probate determining that this is indeed the last will (no competing wills can be brought forward); the person named is indeed the Personal Representative (Executor/ Executrix); and, once they have disbursed the Estate, they are absolved of any further liability.

6. Pay Off Debts

When a person dies, he or she is de-registered from the tax system, and the government collects one final tax bill that encompasses any income, retirement funds, and re-captures assets that weren't previously taxed.

You'll file a final income tax return for the current year and pay income tax due. Income tax only needs to be paid from the first of the year until the date of death, but it includes many different parts.

Fortunately, Canada doesn't collect inheritance tax on an estate or a beneficiary. Some assets are taxable if they're cashed in: capital gains are assigned a rate of 50%. Additionally, the government de-register your registered retirement savings plans or income funds (RRSPs/RRIFs) and pays them to a beneficiary.

If the RRSPs and RRIFs are paid out to anyone but a spouse or common-law partner, the full value of retirement plans is reported on the final tax return.

Additionally, the estate must pay all mortgages, credit cards, auto loans, and any other debt before distribution.

How do you know what's due?

Start by publishing a notice that lets creditors know that the estate is in the process of finalization. You'll then receive claims from creditors to pay before closing the estate.

7. Keep an Eye on All Property

Many estates come with some form of property, and property requires maintenance.

If you're dealing with real estate, be prepared to participate in upkeep on the house to ensure it's ready to sell regardless of whether it will be sold in the end.

Personal property in the estate also needs to be protected. Valuable items should be moved to a safety deposit box if possible.

You're not just on the lookout for nature or crime. Complicated legal proceedings might see the family attempt to take matters into their own hands before the will is executed.

Even if a family member wants something the will entitles them to now, it's important to finish the probate process before distributing assets according to the will.

8. Distribute What's Leftover According to the Will or Law

After tax, distribution is carried out according to the wishes expressed in the will. You're required to follow these to the letter even if the family request and agree on an alternative.

For example, if the will left a primary residence to one heir and a second home to another, and they want to trade properties, you cannot legally do this. You must transfer the titles as directed by the will. Who owns each house after the beneficiaries receive the titles from the estate is up to the heirs.

If you have issues with distribution, you might consult a probate or estate attorney.

9. Dispose of Leftover Property

It's common to find some property that is unwanted by those named in the will. In some cases, the decedent neglected some items and didn't provide specific instructions for them in the will. Anything leftover must then be disposed of in good time.

In most cases, you'll plan an estate sale. It's possible to handle this yourself or work with a full-service estate sale or auction agency.

To dispose of the property, you'll start by taking a full inventory of remaining assets and attempt to sell them. Any proceeds from the estate sale go back into the estate to be distributed to the beneficiaries.

Any items left over from the estate sale can be donated to charity or thrown away after the heirs have confirmed that they do not want them.

How Long Does It Take to Probate an Estate?

Probate takes weeks, months, or years depending on the complexity of the estate.

Larger estates featuring more debts, assets, and complex holdings tend to take longer to probate, especially if you must execute it in multiple jurisdictions or countries.

Each action often requires approval from the court before occurring. Thus, the executor is required to file a sometimes excruciating number of court filings.

The Duties of an Executor Depend on the Estat

Ultimately, the duties of an executor of an estate depend on the size and type of estate and how well the deceased planned for their death.

Whether you're the executor or the beneficiary, you can benefit from the services of an Probate Lawyer experienced in estate law. A lawyer will help with court proceedings, untangle complex legal issues, and help lift the weight of the probate from your shoulders.

Do you have a question about probates, wills, or estates in general? Visit our legal resources page to learn more about the process.

Corporate Acquisition 101: What You Need To Know About Your First Merger

Corporate Acquisition 101: What You Need To Know About Your First Merger

What To Know About Corporate Acquisition

Corporate Acquisition
Whether your company is being absorbed or is doing the absorbing, corporate acquisition can be tough to navigate. Here's what you need to know to handle your next merger.

It's a big moment for your company: you're considering a major corporate merger.

You chose the right time to do it--a record-breaking $2.5 trillion in mergers were announced in the first half of 2018.

But there's a subtle art to a corporate acquisition. Here's everything you need to know to make sure that yours goes off without a hitch.

What is a Corporate Merger?

First, the basics.

A merger is a voluntary agreement between two businesses to fuse into one legal entity. This happens for a variety of reasons, such as gaining market shares and increasing revenue. But all of these reasons should be to the benefit of each company's respective shareholders.

Steps to a Successful Corporate Acquisition

There are several steps to a successful acquisition. Besides hiring a corporate lawyer, of course.

This can be broken down into a few key points:

  • Planning
  • Negotiation
  • Finance
  • Finalizing

It can be easy to want to rush ahead. But if you don't take the time to prepare for your merger, you could be facing a failed (or sloppy) merger. That won't help either business thrive.

Acquisition Strategy and Criteria

An acquisition plan or acquisition strategy is the foundation of every business merger. It should address:

  • All necessary phases and contracts for the merger
  • All milestones and agency decisions to be reached
  • The strategy for each contract that will be included in the acquisition
  • High-level budget/cost summaries
  • High-level technical requirements
  • Any agreements with other companies or agencies
  • Business life cycle support requirements
  • Signatures from appropriate parties indicating their approval of the strategy

In other words, your acquisition strategy will be your complete roadmap to the whole process.

It will work hand-in-hand with your acquisition criteria, which will cover how you select the companies you wish to acquire. The criteria should include considerations like company value, revenue, margins, growth rate, employees, etc.

Begin Acquisition Planning and Valuation

Once you have your strategy and criteria, you can start to search for acquisition targets based on those criteria. These opportunities can come up from a variety of avenues, from searching Bloomberg to using bankers.

After selecting companies for a merger, you can begin acquisition planning, which is simply the process of reaching out to management to open discussions about a merger.

Once discussions have begun in earnest, you can also begin the process of business valuation. The company you're seeking to acquire will provide financial details that will allow you to perform a complete valuation analysis to get a better picture of the company as a potential asset.

Negotiation and Due Diligence

If the results of the valuation analysis are to your liking, you can proceed with negotiations and due diligence.

This is contingent on a successful valuation and an agreement on the results of the valuation. Once this is accomplished, your company can make an offer and negotiations can commence in earnest. You need to make sure you cover the key issues and dodge any anti-trust pitfalls.

In addition, after an offer has been accepted, you'll need to commence due diligence, which is the last step of ensuring that all your information is accurate.

Financing Strategy and Purchase and Sale Contracts

Time to show the money.

Your financing strategy can occur earlier in the game (in fact, it's not a bad idea to think about it while you're creating your acquisition strategy) but this stage is when all the final pieces will start coming together.

Part of this is purchase and sale contracts. Once due diligence has been completed to the satisfaction of your bosses, you can finalize the purchase and sale contracts and get them signed.

Closing the Deal

Assuming that every other part of this process goes off without a hitch, it's time to finalize the deal.

Any last minute negotiations and details in the agreement should be ironed out at this stage. You want to make sure all of your ducks are in a row before the final signing and hand-shaking.

But this isn't the end of the acquisition process. It's the beginning of the integration process because once you've signed and officially agreed to merge, you need to do the work of properly integrating your businesses.

Reorganizing After a Merger

This involves a lengthy process of reorganization of both businesses in order to function more efficiently as one cohesive entity.

This is also the place where successfully-negotiated mergers can fall apart because you can run into a lot of problems if you try to throw two different business cultures together without the proper planning and foresight.

In fact, 41% of merger reorganizations take longer than originally planned, and only 16% fully deliver their objectives in the planned time.

As such, there are a few things you should keep in mind while reorganizing after a merger.

Develop a Profit and Loss Statement

This is actually part of your acquisition planning earlier in the game. Considering the name, you can probably guess why.

Your profit and loss statement should be a comprehensive overview of all your profits and losses resulting from the merger, though this is not limited simply to the manpower involved in making it happen (lawyers, bankers, employees, consultants, etc.)

It also includes the human cost that comes with merging two businesses, like consolidation of employees and the cost of the disruption caused by this process.

By focusing on this process early, you can streamline your reorganization process in order to realize profits more quickly after a merger.

Assess Current Strengths and Weaknesses

Along similar lines, you should spend quality time assessing the current strengths and weaknesses of both sides.

This can be difficult to view properly when you're in the middle of the process, and asking a business to name their weaknesses is rather like asking a parent to name their least-favorite child.

Some of these questions can be answered during a thorough due diligence. How you acquire this information will also depend on whether this is a corporate takeover or a true merger.

If it is a true merger, this is an excellent opportunity to see where both sides are strongest and weakest and match up. Where one side struggles, the other excels--and the one that excels should take precedence on that function.

Get the Details Right (and Consider Multiple Options)

One of the biggest mistakes in the reorganization process? Focusing on what an organization looks like instead of how it actually works.

In other words, you're neglecting the behaviors, capabilities, and mindsets of the people who make the business work, the numbers that are central to its operations, and other key factors that tell you important details about the business you're acquiring.

You should treat this as a multi-step process that requires verification--in other words, you may develop a hypothesis about how the business works based on its valuation and due diligence, but you should see how that hypothesis holds up as time wears on and adjust accordingly.

Regardless, it's important to keep several options in mind and consider many possible avenues for making things work.

It's also common for higher-level executives and consultants to step back at this point, but this is when you need them the most. You need a detailed analysis based on information gathered relatively late in the game in order to properly reassess early hypothesis and develop a successful reorganization strategy.

Merging Business Cultures

We've talked a lot about the technicalities of merging two businesses. But you can't neglect the human element--the process required to merge two disparate business cultures.

Due Diligence

A big part of this is something you were doing much earlier in the game: due diligence.

The reality is, you should be analyzing corporate culture long before the reorganization process begins--even before the deal is closed. Many a merger has failed because companies neglect to consider the compatibility of company culture.

This is a great time to multitask. While the lawyers are working out the legal wording of the merger, have someone else critically examine the cultural differences. You can even talk to current employees.

This way you're not dropping new employees into a totally unfamiliar environment (i.e. a recipe for disaster).

Don't Try to Change Everything

Once upon a time, Christmas was just a holiday created by mashing together Christian traditions with a pre-existing pagan holiday in order to make it more palatable to conquered and converted populations.

This is relevant because it's more or less what you should be doing when combining two corporate cultures.

While it can be tempting to rewrite everything in an acquisition company to match your own company culture, this will create a lot of problems for those employees who worked there before the merger.

Instead of changing things for the sake of changing them, focus on only changing what needs to be changed for maximum efficiency and seamlessness.

Communicate Your Expectations

Above all, don't leave anything up in the air. Make sure that your hopes for the merger and expectations for what will happen are crystal clear from the outset.

This will help combat the "first day at a new school" feeling that often accompanies a recent merger (especially for employees who worked at the company pre-merger).

The key is to empower your employees by letting them know exactly what you expect of them in the new corporate culture, what your metrics of success are, and what you view as effective performance and behavior on the job.

The Quick and Dirty for Surviving a Merger

Now that you have an overview of each individual step, there are a few things you should keep in mind throughout the process to ensure success.

Plan for the Worst (and the Best)

Above all, you should plan for the worst (and the best).

There is a variety of moving parts when it comes to corporate acquisition, from negotiation to valuation to due diligence to consolidating employees. Just because you have previous experience with mergers doesn't mean that everything will go smoothly.

As such, you should consider all possible worst-case scenarios and try to plan what will happen if each situation arises.

On the flipside, you should also prepare for the best.

In the best of all possible worlds, what will your merger look like? Being clear on what you would like to see your merger achieve is a great way of helping it do just that.

Don't Think Your Previous Experience Gives You an Advantage

That said, one of the most common mistakes a business can make in the acquisition process is assuming that previous experience with mergers gives them an advantage.

Managers are correct in the assumption that experience often adds value. However, each merger is different--even within the same industry. That's because every company is different and every company's expectations for a merger are different.

As such, treating each merger as the same by assuming previous experience teaches you all you need to know is an inaccurate (and risky) assumption.

Instead, mix up your merger team. Find the people that are best suited to handle a merger with this specific company instead of just the people who have merger experience with other companies.

Don't Assume All Synergies are Created Equal

On a similar note, you should not, under any circumstances, assume that all company synergies are created equal.

Synergies are the lifeblood of deals. They're also expensive, and finding them takes a fair amount of time on the part of management. They often involve greater investment than initially planned (as when you have to integrate IT systems).

When you're assessing a deal's potential, don't underestimate the cost associated with synergies. By the same token, you should also carefully evaluate where the synergies are coming from so that you can plan accordingly.

Corporate Law for a Successful Merger

If your business is starting a corporate acquisition, one of the most important tools in your arsenal is a great corporate lawyer.

That's where we come in.

We practice corporate and commercial law in the Edmonton area and have completed hundreds of legal transactions. So when you come to us, you know you're in good hands.

If you're ready to speak with an experienced lawyer, use our contact page to keep in touch and make sure to check out our legal resources page for tips anyone can use.