How Can A Lawyer Help Me With My Estate Administration Matters?

How Can A Lawyer Help Me With My Estate Administration Matters?

How Can A Lawyer Help Me With My Estate Administration Matters?

Verhaeghe Law Office has assisted clients across Alberta with their Last Will & Testament as well as estate administration needs since the firm’s inception. Our Edmonton wills and estates lawyers are happy to assist Albertans with their legal needs as they pertain to estate administration matters. Call 587-410-2500 today to schedule a consultation with a wills and estates lawyer today. We recommend that you do not delay in contacting a lawyer on this topic to ensure you spare your loved one’s grief later down the road. Call Verhaeghe Law Office today as our team is on stand-by to assist you.

What is Estate Administration?

We recently wrote an article on what is estate administration which dives deeper into this topic. In a nutshell, the Estate Administration Act of Alberta governs estate administration matters and a lawyer can help ensure that the estate is administered legally. Most estate administration matters start with a process called probate where the estate executor applies to have the deceased persons’ last will and testament proven as valid as well as confirming the executor’s authority to administer the estate. Some of the things that may be required to administer an estate include but are not limited to funeral arrangements, identifying all property and assets as well as their beneficiaries and distribution of same as well as handling outstanding debts, payment and more.

How can a Wills & Estates Lawyer from Alberta Help Me?

Commencing with probate as well as the administering of the estate – a lawyer can help on a variety of matters. A lawyer can assist with obtaining court approval of the administration of the estate, preparing accounts (including estate accounts, guardianship account, etc.) for court and all other aspects in the estate administration process.

In instances where there was no will provided – a lawyer can also assist in various legal aspects of estate administration in addition to providing reliable legal guidance on administering high value and complex estates. Additional examples of how a lawyer can help include advice on investing trust funds and distribution of trust funds, moving trusts to different jurisdictions, paying off debts, distribution of assets to beneficiaries, closing down the trust or estate and more. Contact our law firm today to see how we can help on your estate administration matters.

Schedule a legal consultation with our Edmonton Wills & Estate Lawyers Now

While we have offices in Athabasca, Whitecourt and Edmonton – we can represent clients from surrounding areas with all their estate administration needs. Call 587-410-2500 today and schedule a legal consultation with our legal team regarding your estate administration needs. Spare your loved ones the opportunity for conflict down the road and finalize your estate administration needs with an Edmonton wills and estates lawyer sooner than later.

Disclaimer: Please note this article is intended to act as a general overview on a topic and does not constitute legal advice. Each situation requiring legal advice is unique and we recommend speaking with a wills and estates lawyer from Alberta for your estate administration needs.

What Is A Joint Divorce in Alberta & How Does It Work?

What is a Joint Divorce in Alberta and How Does It Work?

What Is A Joint Divorce in Alberta & How Does It Work?

At Verhaeghe Law Office our Alberta divorce lawyers have worked on numerous joint divorces since the firm’s inception. If you and your significant other are looking to end your marriage and believe you can come to amicable terms on your own – we recommend you contact our law firm to help process your joint divorce application. Contact our law firm today and speak directly with a member of our family law legal team for more information. In the meanwhile, here is a general overview of what constitutes a joint divorce.

What Is A Joint Divorce?

A joint divorce is referred to as a divorce that ends amicably where both parties agree on most matters pertaining to their divorce with minimal or no conflict. In a joint divorce – couples co-operate with each other to come to amicable solutions regarding their divorce and both parties complete and execute all the legal paperwork together.

How Does A Joint Divorce Work?

As amicable as your future divorce may be – it’s always wise to have a lawyer assist you with the legalities surrounding a joint divorce. Most often, joint divorces have minimal conflict between parties. Therefore, one of the benefits of a joint divorce would be the fact that these types of divorces typically cost far less than what divorces would when both parties are riddled with conflict on the matter.

In order to qualify for a joint divorce in Alberta one of the parties must be a resident of Alberta for at least one year before filing the Joint Statement of Claim for Divorce. Additionally, there may be a requirement where both parties need to have lived separate for at least a year prior to the divorce judgement (although if financial circumstances dictate that both parties need to live together prior to the divorce order being issued – you may be able to have this requirement challenged).

In certain circumstances where cruelty or infidelity is the grounds for divorce – the parties may need to use an alternative route where they file for an uncontested divorce as opposed to a joint divorce.

What Does A Divorce Lawyer in Alberta Need For A Joint Divorce?

You will need to provide your lawyer with a copy of the original marriage certificate if the marriage occurred in Canada. If the marriage occurred outside of the country, you will be expected to provide details and proof of marriage outside the country.

We recommend you also consult on the following topics with your significant other regarding your joint divorce:

  • Parenting plan: If children are in the picture – make sure you have come to agreement on child custody arrangements including joint custody options, visitation schedules, financial obligations for the children, education costs, medical and dental expenses, expenses for extra curricular activities, childcare, etc.
  • Spousal support: If spousal support is required, try and come to a consensus on how this will all play out and whether or not one party will be required to give financial assistance to the other party for a fixed period of time.
  • Property division: Discuss how the property should be distributed including personal property, assets, pension, bank accounts including savings, debts, pension and other financial investments. Pets are also considered property so make sure you discuss who gets the pets. You may want to seek legal advice on this topic as well prior to having discussion with your significant other.

Contact our Edmonton divorce lawyers today

If you require the assistance of an Edmonton divorce lawyer contact Verhaeghe Law Office today. Our legal team is on stand-by and we are ready to help you navigate the legal complexities of your divorce. While we have offices in Athabasca, Whitecourt and Edmonton – we can represent clients in the surrounding vicinity.

Call 587-410-2500 today to book your consultation now.

Disclaimer: Please note the advice contained in this article does not constitute legal advice and is only intended to act as a general overview on the topic at hand. Each legal situation is unique and we recommend you speak with a divorce lawyer from Alberta if you have a question pertaining to joint divorces in Alberta or require legal assistance.

Are There Enough Legal Protections for Online Payments?

Are There Enough Legal Protections for Online Payments?

Are There Enough Legal Protections for Online Payments?

With 69% of Generation Z using mobile banking apps (compared to just 17% of Baby Boomers), it is clear that a significant shift towards online banking is fast occurr. This is in large part due to the fact that 82% of young smartphone owners shop using their mobile. With services such as PayPal, Apple Pay, and Amazon Payments, it is now easier than ever to send money over the internet. However, as with all new technology, this convenient method of shopping presents a major risk for fraud. This is because of online payments lack the same legal protection that you get from using a credit or debit card.

Online Payments Similar to Using Cash

The biggest problem with using a service like Apple Pay is that the payment is difficult to trace. The person receiving the money can be impossible to identify, so it is as if you have handed over physical cash. Lawmakers should therefore put measures in place to be able to track the payment to a real person, so that there is nowhere for fraudsters to hide.

No Verification Required

One way of improving online payment methods is by adding verification. At the moment, anyone can set up an account online and request money without having to prove their identity. Most banks require multiple steps of verification, but online payments have been slow to introduce this. The Canadian Payments Act protects funds when paying with a credit card, but needs to be updated to offer liability against online scams.

Sending Payments is Too Easy

Online payment services act as a convenient way of sending money. However, this can be open to abuse. For instance, using iOS, it is possible to send money via Facebook Messenger. This has led to instances of people setting up a fake Facebook page, offering a product such as concert tickets, requesting the money through Messenger, and then deleting their profile once they receive the funds. It is the fact that it is so easy to transfer money that many people do it without taking the time to consider whether the person they are speaking to is genuine.

Traditional card payments are incredibly safe in Canada, due to federal legislation protecting consumers from fraud. However, newer online payments don’t have this kind of legal protection. As the technology advances quickly, the legal frameworks need to be put in place before any more instances of fraud occur.

Written for Verhaeghe Law Office by Cassandra Tilbury

*Please note the content of this blog offers a general overview and does not constitute legal advice as every case is unique from one another. We encourage you to seek independent legal advice for any matter that concerns you.

Law Is Evolving To Meet The Modern Superbug Challenge

Law Is Evolving To Meet The Modern Superbug Challenge

Law Is Evolving To Meet The Modern Superbug Challenge

Hospitals are the crown jewels of modern healthcare, a place of respite where science does it’s wonders for the unwell. However, there are indications that hospitals may be unequipped to deal with the rising tide of drug-resistant infection, according to HuffPo Canada. While some bugs are simply part and parcel of modern treatment systems, some are undoubtedly down to negligence in medical facilities leading to poor hygiene. It’s here that the law steps in, and is rapidly evolving to aid affected families.

The state of affairs, and how hospitals impact this

Currently, it can be difficult for patients to establish clear medical negligence. This is the view of the Library of Congress in the USA, which outlaws a few key cases on their information page. However, it has been argued that the nature of superbugs are changing this dynamic as the simple act of uncleanliness gives rise to a number of superbugs, including MRSA, clostridium difficile and carbapenam-resistant enterobacteriaceae. Increasingly, hospitals need to show that their cleaning contracts and efforts are completely effective in order to avoid the proliferation of these bugs.

Precedent being set

To back up the theories suggesting that hospitals may be harbouring superbugs, an October 2018 study established that contamination rates of these bugs were high within Canadian medical facilities – despite deep cleaning. Continued occurrences of these bugs may lead to a negative inference being drawn in relation to hospitals; in the UK, precedent has been set by the 2010 case which saw £400,000 awarded out of court to one patient, according to the BBC.

Affairs in Canada

Currently, only 1.6% of litigated malpractice cases in Canada result in victory of the patient. This is despite misgivings in the system, according to CBC. However, there are signs that this may be shifting to meet the challenge of MRSA and related bugs. There have been several landmark cases where poorly controlled bugs, or undiagnosed superbugs, have led to disability, and settlements have arisen as a result. As a result, patients involved in superbug cases may find more avenues of redress than with alternative diagnoses.

Superbugs are a terrifying prospect for most patients, but hospitals have the ability to control them. Where this falls down is in negligence cases, where hygiene standards have dropped. As a patient, or family member, be vigilant as to the medical facilities you use and what your rights are.

Written for Verhaeghe Law Office by Cassandra Tilbury

*Please note the content of this blog offers a general overview and does not constitute legal advice as every case is unique from one another. We encourage you to seek independent legal advice for any matter that concerns you.

Ageing In Place, Competence and The Law

Ageing In Place, Competence and The Law

Ageing In Place, Competence and The Law

Canadians are getting older and older, with many reaching the age of 100, and are increasingly concerned with maintaining their independence. This is the view of the Canadian government, who have also noted the level of planning and legal steps needed as life progresses. For families, a relative ageing in place can be simple; as medical diagnoses become more frequent, it can be a challenge legally and logistically.

Basic law and competency

Ageing in place has a lot to do with competency, or capacity, and this isn’t necessarily reduced by age. The competency of an older person to complete their daily tasks is often helped through the use of technology; tech tools and aids can help senior citizens to stay independent throughout later life. Legally, competence is not by default reduced by age, and according to the Canadian Bar Association, is always held from adulthood onwards. As a result, all senior citizens are, by default, competent and capable, for obvious reasons. Older age is not by itself a reason for diminished capability.

How the law helps

Legislation has played an effective role in helping to break down barriers and make ageing in place reasonable for all Canadians. Of most importance is the legislation implemented by the Canadian government that guarantees access in public physical environments and in new building of homes within certain areas. As a result, any physical barriers to the ability of a senior citizen to be able to operate in their home area can be effectively challenged by your family and representatives if its creating a harmful barrier to a relative’s independence.

Aiding seniors

Power of attorney is another useful function that can be applied with older relatives to help their independence. Joint control over their bank accounts can help to protect against fraud, and aid with the day-to-day running of their affairs. There are also legal protections in place to ensure that accounts are not operated in a malicious fashion or by an inappropriate party. Liaise with legal professionals to ensure the account is set up in a way that is conducive to the well-being of your loved one.

Ageing in place is the ultimate form of independence for many senior citizens, and in Canada, the law helps to make this an easier process. Through legislation, public places are conducive to access, competency is enshrined and aided even in senior years, and there are tools to help families aid independence.

Written for Verhaeghe Law Office by Cassandra Tilbury

*Please note the content of this blog offers a general overview and does not constitute legal advice as every case is unique from one another. We encourage you to seek independent legal advice for any matter that concerns you.

How To Open A Franchise in Alberta

How To Open A Franchise in Alberta

How To Open A Franchise in Alberta

Opening a new franchise in Alberta doesn’t need to be an intimidating venture. In fact, we recommend you hire a franchise lawyer who is experienced in opening franchises so they can guide you on all the legalities and nuances that are involved in opening a franchise in Alberta. In addition to having a lawyer give you legal guidance in this process – it’s also important to consider that you are willing and able to adhere to the rigors of entrepreneurship including working long hours, working on weekends and holidays, managing people as well managing finances. Here are a few tips we have put together if you are considering opening a franchise in Alberta. This list is not intended to act as legal guidance – but instead act as a starting point if you are or have considered opening a new franchise in Alberta.

1. Do your research

If you’re up for the rigors of entrepreneurship and have decided that this is a lifestyle you want to pursue – you’ll need to conduct extensive research on a variety of things including provincial and federal franchise laws, finances and costs associated with opening a franchise, employment and business laws and market research to name a few. Do not rush this phase – and reach out to as many experienced people as possible for advice on these items including a franchise lawyer, a franchise consultant, an accountant as well as past and present franchise owners if possible. If you are looking to purchase an existing franchise – some franchise operations conduct franchise discovery days which may be beneficial for you as well.

2. Speak with other franchise owners

Franchise owners are a great source of information for what life is like as a franchise owner. There are different types of franchise owners such as master franchise owners or individual franchise owners. If you are considering opening your own franchise or purchasing an existing franchise – franchise owners are a great source of information on the nuances involved in owning and operating a franchise. We recommend you speak with more than one owner to get a sense of what life as a franchise owner is like.

3. Do due diligence on your location

In addition to customer service – the location of your franchise can be a large determinant on how successful your franchise may or may not be. Do your market research and understand what competition is like in the geographic area you intend to open your franchise in. Conducting a SWAT analysis can also help you understand the various factors you will be faced with when opening your franchise. A marketing professional or franchise consultant may be able to assist with this part of your research phase.

4. Analyze costs

A lot of business owners have a good understanding of what capital costs are required in order to start a new business or franchise. But one thing that’s hard to estimate are operating costs or monthly costs. Speaking with an experienced franchise lawyer or franchise owner can help heighten your understanding of what monthly costs are going to be like for your franchise. It’s very important that you are exhaustive in your efforts to understand costs - so make sure you hire professionals like a franchise lawyer to help make more sense of franchise costs and fees.

5. Hire a franchise lawyer

As mentioned before – hiring a franchise lawyer can help you understand the costs and details of opening and running a franchise. In addition to assisting with legal documents such as franchise agreements, employment agreements, lease agreements and more – a franchise lawyer can point you in the right direction to make sense of your franchise operations for the numerous questions that may arise during your research phase. At Verhaeghe Law Office we have assisted numerous franchise owners franchise, purchase and sell franchises across Alberta. Let us help you with your franchise’s legal needs.

Contact us today by dialing 587-410-2500 and book a consultation to speak with an Edmonton franchise lawyer.

Disclaimer: This blog is intended to act as a general overview on a commonly asked legal topic. It is not intended to act as legal advice, nor does it establish lawyer-client relationship in any way. If you require legal assistance on this topic, we suggest you consult with a family lawyer regarding your unique situation.

Things To Look For When Buying A Franchise in Alberta

Things To Look For When Buying A Franchise in Alberta

Things To Look For When Buying A Franchise in Alberta

There are many benefits to being a franchise owner in Canada – primarily that you get to be your own boss and join approximately 1.14 million small business owners in Canada as an entrepreneur. At Verhaeghe Law Office – our Edmonton franchise lawyers have assisted numerous clients in the buying and selling of franchises across Canada. We recommend consulting with a franchise lawyer who is familiar with franchise laws in Alberta in order to make an informed decision prior to purchasing one. The Canadian Franchise Association is also a fantastic resource for franchise owners if you are in currently in market to buy a franchise.

In an effort to assist interested buyers – we have put together a list of rudimentary questions you may want to find answers for prior to purchasing a franchise. Please note this is not an exhaustive list – and instead is intended to act as a general overview. As we state in all our other online publications – please consult with a franchise lawyer in order to get tailored and specific legal advice if you are considering purchasing a franchise.

Initial Questions To Ask A Franchisor:

  • Who are the main shareholders of the franchisor as well as the officers and directors
  • How experienced are these individuals in franchises?
  • If applicable, are there any other companies or franchises within the franchisor organizational group?
  • How are all these companies related to the franchise group?
  • Have any of the franchisor’s directors, officers or shareholders ever declared bankruptcy in the past?
  • How many years has the franchise been operating for?
  • How many years has the franchise group been selling franchises for?
  • How many franchises are within the franchising group and how many are corporately owned?
  • What is the franchisor’s online reputation like as well as customer service ratings like?
  • What are other franchise owners saying about the franchisor?
  • Are you able to connect with an existing franchise owner to get their opinions and experience firsthand?
  • Does the franchisor have any plans for expansion?
  • How are the franchises monitored by head office?
  • Does the franchisor offer marketing and advertising budgets?
  • Does the franchisor have dedicated vendors for their marketing and advertising efforts or are you able to select your own?
  • What is the failure/turnover rate for franchisees and what are the reasons for failures/turnovers?
  • Will the franchisor regularly provide financial statements?
  • How are the franchises inspected periodically and what do they look for during inspections?
  • What are the franchisor’s future plans for technology, development and introducing new products/services? How will this affect you?
  • Are there any pending litigation matters against the franchisor?
  • What is the corporate culture and vision for the franchisor and are you comfortable with this?
  • How innovative is the franchisor? Ask them to give you examples
  • What is the required initial investment and ongoing investment?
  • What are the fees associated with owning this franchise
  • What additional costs may be incurred?
  • How extensively involved is the franchisor in the franchise operations
  • What is the expected time between start-up and profitability?
  • Is your franchise territory exclusive? If not – is there any territorial protection measure in place?
  • How easy/difficult is it for you to expand your territory?
  • And more

Speak With An Edmonton Franchise Lawyer At Verhaeghe Law Office If You Are Interested In Buying A Franchise

In addition to the above-mentioned questions – there are various other things to consider and investigate prior to buying a franchise. In Alberta – there is legislation that mandates the provision of disclosure documents and they must comply with the franchising disclosure statute. Our franchise lawyers can assist with the confidential and sensitive nature of these types of transactions and have assisted numerous clients with purchasing franchises. Contact us today by dialing 587-410-2500 and book a consultation to speak with an Edmonton franchise lawyer today.

Disclaimer: This blog is intended to act as a general overview on a commonly asked legal topic. It is not intended to act as legal advice, nor does it establish lawyer-client relationship in any way. If you require legal assistance on this topic, we suggest you consult with a family lawyer regarding your unique situation.

Property Division Checklist: What To Consider

Property Division Checklist: What To Consider

Property Division Checklist: What To Consider?

The dissolution of a relationship or marriage doesn’t necessarily need to be ridden with complexities and super-charged emotions. At Verhaeghe Law Office we recommend couples always have a plan for the inevitable. It’s like having a will in place – you prepare for the inevitable to reduce stress and burden on your loved ones after your passing away. Similarly – having a property division agreement in place in the event of a relationship or marriage breakdown can save couples a great deal of grief down the road should the inevitable happen.

Below is a list of things to consider and discuss with your spouse/partner when drafting a property division agreement. It is important for us to note that this list is by no means exhaustive and is only intended to act as a general overview. For more complex property division matters such as high-net worth couples who have significant assets and holdings, we recommend you consult with an Edmonton family lawyer regarding your unique situation. You may contact our law firm for more information on this topic and book a paid consultation with one of our lawyers.

Matrimonial Home & Property

  • Who gets custody of the pets? Remember – pets are considered property too according to laws in Alberta
  • If one spouse or partner gets exclusive possession of your home(s) – who pays for what?
  • If the home/property is to be sold – when is the due date for this?
  • Consider buyout provisions from one partner/spouse to another
  • Date of valuation of the home and what happens if it’s destroyed?
  • Consider conditions that limit occupation of the matrimonial home to one spouse
  • How will the home be sold if you intend to sell it?
  • How will a real estate agent be selected if you intend to sell the home?
  • How will the proceeds and disbursements from the sale of the home will be divided

Financial Assets

  • Division of Canada Pension Plan
  • Division of any other pension plans
  • Life insurance policies with cash surrender values
  • Tax refunds, RRSPs and other investments such as GICs
  • Division of stocks and bonds
  • Division of Trusts
  • Division of profit-sharing plans
  • Bank accounts – both individual and joint accounts

Physical Assets

  • Division of tools and equipment in the house(s)
  • Division of furniture and appliances
  • Division of motor vehicles, trailers, boats and other recreational vehicles
  • Real estate leasehold interests
  • Division of investment properties and other properties such as cottages, cabins, trailers, land, condos, etc.
  • Division of business assets if applicable
  • Division of inherited gifts and assets
  • Jewellery, artwork and other valuables that may have been financially valuated

Debts and Outstanding Payments

  • Who is responsible for paying existing debts and loans?
  • If loans and lines of credits get re-negotiated – who will be responsible for them?

You may also want to consider getting all your assets valuated prior to getting into the property division agreement so you understand the value of your assets. This can be done by hiring an independent third-party expert.

Contact An Edmonton Family Lawyer For Assistance With Property Division Agreements

For more information on additional items to include in a property division agreement – contact our law firm to book a consultation. You can do this by dialing 587-410-2500 and book a consultation to speak with an Edmonton family lawyer by filling out an online request form or chat with one of our live chat representatives to book a time that is convenient for you.

Disclaimer: This blog is intended to act as a general overview on a commonly asked legal topic. It is not intended to act as legal advice, nor does it establish lawyer-client relationship in any way. If you require legal assistance on this topic, we suggest you consult with a family lawyer regarding your unique situation.

Who is considered a Guardian in Alberta family law?

Who is considered a Guardian in Alberta Family law?

Who is considered a Guardian in Alberta Family law?

At Verhaeghe Law Office – we often get asked how Alberta’s laws define guardianship or who is the respectful guardian in child custody disputes. While the guardian of a child has a legal responsibility and right to make decisions on behalf of that child – it’s not always as clear cut as you think especially in child custody or family law disputes.

What is a guardian?

The Family Law Act in Alberta indicates that a child’s biological or legally adoptive parent is by default their guardian if:

  • He/she has acknowledged they are the child or children’s parent;
  • He/she has demonstrated an intent to assume the responsibility of being a guardian for that child or children within one year of finding out about the pregnancy or if the parent did not know about the pregnancy and birth of the child.

Only the parent of a child or children can become a guardian. However, if an adult who is not the child’s biological parent has lived with the child for at least six months - they can certainly make a request (or application) to be legally declared a guardian of the child. If for any reason only one person fits the criteria to be a child’s guardian then no other person will be added to the court order for the application.

How Does A Prospective Guardian Demonstrate Intent For Guardianship?

A prospective guardian can demonstrate they have the intention to resume guardianship of a child or children by demonstrating the following:

  • Being legally married to the parent of the child/children or by marrying the parent after the child is born. In some instances, if you were previously married to the other parent but divorced within 300 days of the child or children being born you may still be eligible for guardianship
  • Being in an adult interdependent relationship with the parent of the child or children when the child or children are born or becoming one after the child or children are born
  • Entering into a binding agreement with the other parent to be a guardian to the child or children
  • Living with the other parent for at least a year during the time the child or children are born
  • Providing financial support voluntarily to the birth mother or to the child or children

For more information on how you can obtain guardianship for a child or children contact our law firm today and speak with a member of our legal team.

Contact our Alberta Family Lawyers Regarding Your Guardianship Legal Issues

If you or a loved one require the assistance of a family lawyer with respect to guardianship issues – contact our law firm today. We can represent families across Alberta on family law matters and have assisted thousands of Albertans on this already. With offices in Athabasca, Whitecourt and Edmonton – we make it a point to be readily available for our clients and keep them informed through the course of their legal case so they’re not left in the dark. This is part of the reason why we have great online reviews – as we make it a priority to provide excellent service to our clients.

Contact us today by dialing 587-410-2500 and book a consultation to speak with an Edmonton family lawyer.

Disclaimer: This blog is intended to act as a general overview on a commonly asked legal topic. It is not intended to act as legal advice, nor does it establish lawyer-client relationship in any way. If you require legal assistance on this topic, we suggest you consult with a family lawyer regarding your unique situation.

What Does it Mean to Drive Distractedly in British Columbia?

What Does it Mean to Drive Distractedly in British Columbia?

What Does it Mean to Drive Distractedly in British Columbia?

Ubiquitous connectivity and the boom of mobile use in Canada means that many provinces have brought new, more restrictive laws regarding the use of mobile devices in vehicles. In British Columbia, the law regarding distracted driving is contained in Part 3.1 of the Motor Vehicle Act. The latter prohibits drivers from using mobile phones and other hand-held devices while operating a car or other vehicle. A recent Supreme Court ruling (made in March, 2019) seemed to clarify this law, by declaring that having a cellphone loose in a vehicle does not amount to distracted driving. However, just this month, a B.C. driver was given a $368 fine for distracted driving, for keeping her cellphone in the cup holder of her vehicle for charging purposes. The question remains: how can the idea of what amounts to distracted driving be refined?

What did the Supreme Court Judges Decide?

In the case brought before the Supreme Court, the driver had her cellphone wedged in the passenger street. She was not using the phone at the time. The judges ruled that simply having a handheld device within sight did not amount to distracted driving. As reported by CBC, the decision deemed driving with a phone – for instance in a cup holder – OK, and that those who receive a fine for simply having their phone in their vehicle should now bring the case before a court. The Vancouver Police Department responded, stating that the case would be used as a guideline for police in future.

Car Features for Mobile Storage

The fact is that most middle- or high-end cars do not have specific places in which to store mobile phones – a fact that arguably should be changed to promote greater safety. Research carried out by Zendrive (on three million drivers who made 570 million trips) has found that the majority of drivers do actually use their phones – nearly every single time they get behind the wheel. In theory, having a phone within visibility (and within reach) can be considered a temptation and potential distraction. However, in the case of the B.C. driver who was fined, it could be argued that the fact his phone was charging is a safe indication of the fact that his phone was not actually in use. Anomalies such as those between the Supreme Court ruling and this case could potentially solve by designating a specific place in a vehicle in which the phone should be kept.

Visibility is Key

According to the B.C. driver (a senior driver with an excellent record), she was stopped in Vancouver by a policeman who declared that the phone had to be completely invisible. The driver’s son subsequently Tweeted (receiving great support and shares from a plethora of users) that his mother had been driving for over 50 years and had never received a fine. There is a happy ending to the story, however. Recently, the fine was cancelled, with police issuing an apology to the driver. Vancouver lawyer, Kyla Lee, stated that the rules had the potential to confuse drivers, with articles in the statue lacking clarity and specificity.

The case of the senior driver who was issued with a fine may have ended justly, but it does indicate a potential for an amendment of the Motor Vehicle Act. Currently, the term ‘use’ in the Act would technically cover charging a phone, since the latter doses involve operating one of its features. For now, thankfully, commonsense has prevailed, and having phones within sight will hopefully not result in further fines.

Written for Verhaeghe Law Office by Cassandra Tilbury

*Please note the content of this blog offers a general overview and does not constitute legal advice as every case is unique from one another. We encourage you to seek legal advice from a wills and estates lawyer for any answers related to wills and estates in Alberta.