Estate Planning Designed For You

Disclaimer: This article is intended for the purposes of providing information only and is to be used only for the purposes of guidance. This article is not intended to be relied upon as the giving of legal advice and does not purport to be exhaustive.

It has been said that estate planning is a gift to those you love, and we wholeheartedly agree. We know that no one wants to think about the end of our lives. However, we cannot overstate the importance of having these conversations and making these plans. 

Too often, we have seen the pain and grief of a loss compounded by the stress and overwhelm of poor estate planning. 

Planning for the end of your life means taking into consideration your unique circumstances. Our lives are all different, and the plans for our estates must reflect that. 

This article outlines, at a very high level, how different factors influence your estate planning. Of course, we would be happy to speak further about your situation. You can book a consultation here [link] for more information. 

Estate Planning in Ontario

Estate planning in Ontario is governed primarily by the Succession Law Reform Act (“SLRA”). Its last major update was in the 1970s; however, further changes have received Royal Assent, with some key amendments expected to become law in January 2022. We will discuss those changes in detail in a future article. 

Your Relationships

Getting Married 

Congratulations! You got married – we wish you many happy years together.  

However, under Ontario’s current legislation, if you had a will before you got married, then your entire will has now been revoked unless you made it with marriage in mind. What does that mean for you? Your will may have had provisions protecting your children or donating to causes that you’re passionate about, but these are no longer valid. 

If you recently got married or will be married shortly, it is worthwhile to look at your will. Fortunately, this is one of the changes being made to the SLRA. As of January 2022, marriage will not revoke a will, aligning Ontario with many other provinces. 

In a common-law relationship

While you may have been with your partner longer than most married couples, Ontario’s legislation does not grant the same rights to common-law partners. Suppose you die intestate [definition: a person who died without having made a will]. Your common-law partner does not have a claim to your estate unless one of the following claims are filed: filing a dependency claim or filing a claim for unjust enrichment, both of which involve litigation (i.e. a lawsuit).

Of course, this is an unnecessary strain and expense. It is much more prudent and practical to have a will in place that recognizes your partner and provides for them in the event of your death. 

Separation 

As the SLRA currently stands, a separated spouse still stands to inherit a portion of the deceased spouse’s estate. That means that your home could automatically pass to your estranged spouse, instead of to your children or even a new common-law partner. 

However, as of January 2022, those portions of the SLRA will be amended. The legislation defines situations that deem a couple to be separated. In those instances, a surviving spouse would be treated the same as if the couple was divorced.

Your Children

Minor Children

One key reason to have estate planning in place is to protect your minor children. Therefore, selecting a guardian is an important decision and one that should be given careful thought.  

Generally speaking, a surviving parent would gain full custody of minor children. However, if there is no surviving parent, then other family members need to apply to the courts to gain custody. This could cause strife amongst your family if there are multiple claims and disagreements about who should be your children’s guardians. 

You will also want to consider who will have guardianship over your estate’s assets. Children cannot inherit an estate, so a person will need to be appointed to care for those assets until the children reach the age of majority. That may, or may not, be the same person who has physical custody of the children. 

Adult Children

Your children may be older, so their needs may be different. You will not have to think about a guardian; however, there are still decisions that you must make.  

While an adult is legally defined as 18-years old, is that the age that you want your child to inherit your estate? Many parents consider their children’s maturity level and put a graduated trust in place. This means that a portion of the estate is released at certain points. It is a wise move that protects your child from the poor decisions of their young adulthood. 

Are your children married? Would you want their spouses to inherit a portion of your estate, or should it pass on to any grandchildren? These are questions that must be asked and answered. 

Blended Families

The traditional two-parent family is becoming increasingly less common, and complex “stepfamilies” are on the rise. If this is true for you, this needs to be reflected in your estate planning. 

For example, you may have a child from a previous relationship. You get married but then pass away, and your will leaves your estate to your spouse (your child’s step-parent). The step-parent passes, but that estate is left to a new spouse or their children. Your child is not protected. 

Another example, you and your spouse both have children from previous relationships. You both have wills in place that leave everything to each other and then are divided amongst all the children. You pass, and your relationship between your children and spouse sours. The step-parent amends their will so that their children, and not yours, inherit their estate. Again, your children are not protected. 

While we hate to think about such horrible scenarios, it is a disservice to our children if we do not protect them after we are gone. 

Pets 

While you may consider your pet as part of your family, they are property in the eyes of estate legislation. Therefore, if you would like to plan for your pet’s care if you pass, it will have to be laid out specifically in your will. 

Be Kind – Plan Ahead

We know that you love your family and want to do what’s best for them. Therefore, give them the gift of estate planning so that their loss does not have to include dealing with lengthy legal matters. 

Our firm helps individuals match their estate planning to their lives. If you want to revisit your estate planning, please reach out to us here [link]. Our team would be more than happy to speak with you. 

Qualities to Look for in a Real Estate Lawyer

Congratulations!  You are a real estate agent and you just found that perfect house for your client.  You watch with joy as your clients mentally plan where their furniture will go and imagine the happy memories that they will have in that home. 

Then, your clients turn to you and ask, “Do you have a real estate lawyer that you recommend?” How do you answer that question? 

Giving a recommendation is more than just pulling a name from the Yellow Pages or Google.  That recommendation attaches to your professional reputation. Therefore, it is crucial to select someone trustworthy and exceptional. 

While you may have done your part to perfection, it is human nature to remember the last interaction. This means that when your clients think back to your service, the closing will be a large part of that memory. 

The right referral will add to the overall value that you provide your clients. The wrong referral will have your clients questioning your overall judgment. 

How can you choose?  Here are some of the qualities that are crucial to selecting the right real estate lawyer. 

Experience and Expertise

The first thing that you want to consider is a lawyer’s experience and expertise. Some questions to ask include: 

  • How long have they been practising? 
  • Where did they go to law school?
  • Where else have they practised?
  • Do they specifically list “real estate” as one of their practice areas?

The Law Society of Ontario provides some of this information in its directory.  For example, real estate lawyers in Ontario must be specifically insured to offer those services to the public.  Is your lawyer properly insured? It will also list if a lawyer has any practice restrictions or has been disciplined.

Some lawyers choose to solely handle real estate transactions whereas others prefer the litigation that can arise from real estate transactions. Firms like Beeksma Law provide comprehensive and sound legal advice in both areas. 

Ideally, there are no disputes during or after a real estate transaction. However, an experienced real estate agent knows that disagreements can arise.  When that happens, a savvy realtor is prepared with recommendations for their clients. 

Attention to Detail 

Real estate transactions tend to follow a pattern and an efficient lawyer will have checklists and protocols for each type of transaction. However, just like each client is unique, each transaction is also unique.  You are not providing cookie cutter service and neither should anyone that you recommend. 

A high-caliber real estate lawyer knows the questions to ask at the beginning to really learn about their clients.  Understanding their motivations, as well as any roadblocks that may arise, helps a legal professional be proactive. Issues may arise; however, getting ahead of them is a key skill to succeeding as a real estate lawyer. 

Never should a real estate transaction be treated as “run-of-the-mill”.  Instead, a sharp lawyer will give advice with your client’s specific situation in mind. 

This is also where a lawyer that handles real estate litigation is helpful for your transactions.  For example, having litigated transactions that have failed to close, Beeksma Law knows how to avoid unnecessary exposure to liability.

Responsiveness 

Real estate transactions are, by nature, fast-paced. Timing is absolutely everything. Meeting a deadline can make the difference between a deal closing or not. 

You need a law firm that will be responsive so that your transaction can move forward. A lawyer may have years of experience and a wide breadth of experience; however, that is of no use to you if you cannot contact them!

For the sake of your clients and your own peace of mind, the real estate lawyer that you want on your team must be a strong and responsive communicator.  

Client-Focused

While all professionals in the service industry should be client-focused, this takes on new meaning in a real estate transaction. Buying a home is the single largest purchase many of us make in our lifetimes. 

However, buying a home is simply not a purchase, and leaving a home is not simply a sale.  A home is deeply connected to our peace of mind and our personal security. It’s the place where traditions are created and passed down. A home is where we build our lives with our partners, raise our children, and celebrate so many of our milestones. 

Understandably, many clients have a lot of questions and concerns about buying or selling a home. This is especially true for first-time buyers since many concepts are being introduced for the first time. 

How should a lawyer answer those questions? Patiently and clearly. A good lawyer knows the law, but a great lawyer can take complex concepts and explain them in a way that is digestible and easy to understand. A lawyer’s ability to share information will be the key to helping your clients feel empowered, and not overwhelmed, when buying a home. 

Protect Your Reputation

As mentioned at the outset, your reputation is your most important asset as a real estate agent. Your clients trust you to give them good advice about their purchase or sale, and that includes the other professionals that you recommend. 

At Beeksma Law, we understand what a privilege it is when another professional introduces us to their clients. We view it as a high honour, but also as a weighty responsibility. 

We are an award-winning law firm that has been recognized multiple times for our work in the real estate field.  Our clients rave about our professionalism, but also our kind and patient approach.  Our peers in the legal industry recognize the high pedigree of education and experience that we provide. 

For each and every one of our clients, excellence is the minimum standard that you can expect.  Shayna Beeksma and her team have built a reputation based on their client-focused practice, their ability to leverage technology to be even more responsive, and their strategic and attentive approach to each new transaction. 

We would be happy to discuss whether our practice is a good fit for your clients.  You can book a call with us here

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Incorporating

Disclaimer: This article is intended for the purposes of providing information only and is to be used only for the purposes of guidance. This article is not intended to be relied upon as the giving of legal advice and does not purport to be exhaustive.

If you are reading this, then congratulations!  You either are starting a business and are wondering whether to incorporate, or have been doing business for some time as a sole proprietor or partnership and think it might be time to incorporate. 

In either event, congratulations!  As business owners ourselves, we know that owning a business is hard work. However, it’s one that we do because it brings our passions to life.  We recognize that you put a lot of your own time, money and effort into your business and want to ensure that your business is protected. 

That is why deciding whether or not to incorporate your business is a decision that is not to be taken lightly.  Of course, it goes without saying that the principles discussed herein are just that – principles.  Every business is different and so to discuss your specific needs, book a consultation with us here.

Let’s briefly consider the pros and cons of incorporating your business, along with the reason why you should absolutely seek legal advice to incorporate. 

Benefits of Incorporating Your Business

1. New Entity 

Your corporation is a separate legal entity.  What does that mean? It means that you can think of it as a person and that it has the same rights and obligations as a person.  For instance, the corporation can own property, enter into contracts and receive a loan.  A corporation can also sue others and be sued itself. 

Because the corporation is its own entity, it can continue even if the shareholders change.  This is a key benefit, as a sole proprietorship or partnership will cease to exist upon the death of the business owner.  

By contrast, the shares of a corporation will pass on to the shareholders’ heirs and the business will be able to continue.

2. Limited Liability

Many incorporate to keep their business debts and obligations separate from those of their shareholders. In many cases, liability is limited so that shareholders are only able to lose their investment in the corporation and not their personal assets. 

Legally, the division between the corporation and the shareholders is referred to as the “corporate veil.”  It’s worth noting that the veil is not absolute. 

There is case law where the courts have “pierced the corporate veil” and held shareholders liable for the actions of the corporation in instances in two types of situations: 

  • The corporation is formed for an illegal, fraudulent, or improper purpose; or
  • Those controlling the corporation expressly direct the wrongful action. 

However, generally speaking, liability is limited to the corporation itself and not to the shareholders.  Directors and officers, however, can be exposed to liability (that is why directors’ and officers’ liability insurance exists and is generally recommended). 

3. Tax Benefits

There are many tax benefits to incorporating, which you can discuss in further detail with your accountant or financial advisor. 

Broadly speaking, these are a few ways that it is beneficial to incorporate from a tax perspective:

  • Income can be divided amongst family members in lower tax brackets by issuing shares to them;
  • Corporations are able to write-off expenses that other forms of business cannot, such as entertainment expenses; and
  • Income is taxed at a lower rate for corporations. 

Disadvantages of Incorporation

So far, it is probably sounding like a no-brainer.  Lower taxes and less liability? What’s the downside? 

However, it would be prudent to discuss the disadvantages to incorporating.

1. It may not make financial sense

It is unwise to incorporate if you will be pulling out all of your dividends and leaving no money in the corporation.  If you do so, then you will miss out on corporate tax benefits, and in fact, may be left with a high tax bill. 

Additionally, since you must file a separate tax return for your corporation, the additional tax preparation costs may not outweigh the benefits. 

2. It is more paperwork

Corporations involve much more than just the act of incorporating.  For example, you must also keep the minute book updated. You must also keep the government apprised of any changes, such as the registered office or any changes to the directors and officers.  As well, there is an annual return (different from a tax return) that has to be filed each year. 

Do I Need a Lawyer to Incorporate? 

Strictly speaking, you do not need a lawyer to incorporate.  It is perfectly possible to file the Articles of Incorporation yourself and pay only the filing fee.

However, you are a prudent business owner and know that there are many times where a low initial cost only means a higher cost later on. At Beeksma Law, we see this time and time again with those who choose to incorporate themselves.  It is a classic example of “penny wise, pound foolish”. 

For example, some business owners incorporate and do not take into account the need to think ahead for future investors.  In order to balance their control of the corporation with including investors, Articles of Amendment often need to be filed to correct the mistakes that they made when incorporating themselves.  The cost to correct the problem costs more than the original incorporation would have if prepared and filed by a lawyer. 

Additionally, these issues are usually discovered when there is a tight timeline.  Having a lawyer advise on your incorporation from the beginning stages saves you time, money and stress.  It is clear to see that is the better option!

That is not taking into account the many other issues that we see with those choosing to handle incorporations on their own. It is truly in your best interest to seek expert legal advice about your business needs before incorporating. 

Turn to Legal Advice You Can Trust

At Beeksma Law, we are business owners ourselves.  We understand the challenges faced by small businesses and deeply care about our clients. We want their businesses to grow and not to be held back by administrative matters that could have easily been avoided with sound legal advice and planning. 

That is why we are happy to talk to you about your business and determine if a corporation is the right business structure for you. 

If you would like to book a free consultation, you can visit here. Our team would be happy to expand on the pros and cons of incorporating.  

The 4 C’s of Choosing a Law Firm

Choosing a law firm is no small feat. The Law Society of Ontario reports over 57,000 lawyer licenses, so how can you choose? 

There are several factors to consider, but first, it is important to note the impact of this decision. Whether it’s ensuring that your last wishes are protected or making sure that your first home purchase runs smoothly, you turn to a lawyer to protect the parts of your life that you hold dear. 

However, there are factors that you can consider when choosing a lawyer.  Here are just four to think about: 

  • Credentials and accomplishments
  • Competence
  • Compatibility and Core Values
  • Client Reviews

Credentials and Accomplishments

At a minimum, all lawyers in Ontario must be licensed with the Law Society of Ontario.  However, look for other signs that your lawyer is respected within their field. For example, are they members of professional organizations? 

Have they been recognized or been recipients of any awards? Where have they gained their experience? How long have they been in practice? 

Consider your lawyer’s background.  After receiving her education at one of Canada’s top law schools, Shayna Beeksma gained experience at Gowling WLG, one of Canada’s most prestigious law firms. 

Additionally, she has supplemented that high-caliber pedigree by practicing with a boutique and mid-sized law firm, gaining well-rounded experience that has served her well since she opened her firm in 2018. Shayna has combined her Bay Street pedigree with a Main Street sensibility to her clients’ benefits.

Besides being a sharp legal advocate, Shayna Beeksma is an active member of her community.  Some of the organizations that she works with include:

  • Rotary Club of Hamilton AM (Current Board Member)
  • Telling Tales (Current Board Member)
  • Christian Legal Fellowship (Past Board Member)
  • Reverend John C. Holland Awards (Beeksma Law is the annual sponsor of the Lincoln Alexander Award, awarded to a Black high school or postsecondary student for breaking down barriers in the community)
  • Mamas & Co. (Mentor, Guest Conference Speaker, and Guest Coach for Mom Bosses)
  • Pollinators (a vibrant community for female entrepreneurs)
  • BNI SCORE (Stoney Creek)
  • The Entrepreneur Nation (Ancaster)
  • Hamilton Law Association (CPD Subcommittee Member)
  • Ontario Bar Association
  • Advocates Society
  • Canadian Association of Black Lawyers

Shayna Beeksma is committed to the practice of the law and improving the profession as a whole. 

Competence 

In Ontario, all lawyers are barristers and solicitors. What does that mean? All lawyers in Ontario can handle the transactional and planning portions of the law, along with the litigation or court-related aspects.  Each lawyer chooses the areas of law and the types of services that they offer. 

Some firms thrive in handling disputes, while others shine in preparing transactions.  Yet others, such as Beeksma Law, provide comprehensive and well-rounded legal advice in both spheres. 

Leaning on her wealth of legal experience, Shayna uses her keen legal skills to advocate for her clients.  She has appeared at various levels of court, including the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. She has also argued cases before the Divisional Court, the Ontario Court of Appeal, and the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board. 

Besides being a fierce advocate, Shayna is strategic and effective in estate planning, structuring business transactions, and handling real estate transactions. Her experience allows her to prevent issues before they arise. Of course, the very best way to avoid disagreements is to ensure that terms are clear throughout the process.

Consider the ease of working with a law firm that provides full advice and expertise in an area of law.  Beeksma Law provides such knowledge in the areas of Wills & Estates, Business Law, and Real Estate, whether it is planning and transactional matters or any litigation related to those areas.

Compatibility and Core Values

When seeking legal advice, you need to turn to someone you can trust. Therefore, finding the right fit is incredibly important.  This is especially true when seeking a lawyer to deal with challenges, such as facing a loss. 

Meeting with a lawyer will give you a great opportunity to understand whether you are compatible. However, ask questions and be wary of any lawyer who guarantees an outcome – especially in litigation!  There are too many unknowns for a reasonable lawyer to predict with certainty what a court will decide. 

Additionally, choose a lawyer and law firm that truly cares about their clients and about what is best for them.  When you face times of trouble, especially if your visit to a lawyer is preceded by tragedy, you want someone compassionate and kind. 

As mentioned above, Beeksma Law is active within the legal community and committed to improving the profession. Shayna and her team strongly believe in ensuring that justice is accessible to all. Furthermore, Beeksma Law believes in achieving high results for their clients: excellence is truly their minimum standard. 

Client Reviews 

The best way to know what it’s like to work with a lawyer or law firm is to ask someone who has already been there! Ask your family and friends for referrals and review online reviews. 

Look for testimonials such as: 

“There were a lot of unknowns about [buying my first house], so your patience with me, your willingness to share and explain things in simpler ways and your shared excitement were a huge blessing.”

“I cannot say how professional and compassionate Beeksma Law is. We needed someone who would do all the lawyer stuff for us, but we also needed someone who genuinely cared. That sums up Beeksma Law for me.”

“We were always confident that our real estate deals were being handled perfectly…I would not hesitate to recommend Beeksma Law to anyone who wants to be sure that their real estate transactions will be handled by the best in the business.”

Beeksma Law and Shayna Beeksma have also been recognized by the Hamilton Spectator and by Hamilton Community News.  They were voted the Platinum Winners of the 2019 & 2020 Hamilton Spectator’s Readers’ Choice Awards in the law firm, real estate law firm, lawyer and real estate lawyer categories.  Additionally, Shayna Beeksma was voted the 2021 Platinum Winner of the Hamilton Community News’ Readers’ Choice Awards in the lawyer category.

Carefully Consider Your Options 

Choosing a lawyer for your business, real estate, and estate planning is a serious matter. However, by considering the above four factors, you can confidently have your legal issues resolved by someone you enjoy working with and trust. 

If Beeksma Law has the competence, credentials, core values, and client reviews that align with you, then we welcome the opportunity to work with you. Book an online consultation, and we will be happy to speak with you.