Blog

How Beeksma Law Uses Technology for a Better Client Experience

When you are looking for an attorney, what is the most important thing to you? Is it the size of their office? What about their location or hours of operation? At Beeksma Law, we know that none of these things matter if you’re not getting results!

That’s why at Beeksma Law, we have embraced technology and integrated it into our practice. This blog post will discuss some ways that we use cutting-edge technology to create a better client experience!

Seamless Service

We have been using technology and modernizing our practice well before the COVID-19 pandemic began. However, we saw some real benefits during this tumultuous time.

Many of our clients wanted to avoid face-to-face contact as much as possible and to be honest, so did we! Meeting virtually allowed us to have face-to-face discussions with our clients without risking anyone’s safety. 

Also, we were able to continue serving our clients by using technology-based tools. When the lockdowns first began, our firm was prepared to continue business as usual with minimal interruptions. 

We had already invested in many technological efficiencies, including video conferencing equipment and cloud-based data storage. Our investments paid off during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing us to continue serving our clients without interruption of service or risk of infection.

Beeksma Law

Client Convenience

Imagine you are buying your first home and need to visit your lawyer’s office at least twice during business hours. That would involve taking at least 2-3 hours off for a one-hour appointment, depending on how far you are from your lawyer’s offices.

Logging into a virtual meeting reduces that time to minutes.  Our clients do not have to worry about fighting traffic, finding parking and losing valuable time to be able to receive sound legal advice.

As well, since the process is so simple, our clients are in a better frame of mind to truly understand our advice and make sound decisions.  Stress limits our ability to make wise choices so anything that we can do to remove that stress is very important.

Increased Access to Legal Advice

While our office is located in Hamilton, we have clients all across Ontario.

For those in remote communities, access to legal advice may be limited. A modern law firm that embraces technology opens up options to our clients. At Beeksma Law, we strongly believe that everyone should have access to legal advice.  Leveraging the online tools available opens the doors across Ontario.

Lower Overhead

An office is expensive. There’s the space itself, furniture, utilities,  supplies, maintenance, and the list goes on.

When you have fewer overhead expenses, there are more funds that can be put to work for the company or client. While many law firms still operate solely at an office, we’ve decided that keeping our overhead low was worth it when it meant better service for our clients.

Again, this is part of our pledge to ensure that legal services are accessible to as many as possible.

However, you may wonder if an electronically signed document has the same weight and legality as one signed in person.

beeksma law

Electronic Signatures

The short answer is, yes. Electronic signatures are governed by the Ontario Electronic Commerce Act (ECA) and defined as “electronic information that a person creates or adopts in order to sign a document and that is in, attached to or associated with the document.” 

In most circumstances, an electronic signature is just as valid and legal as a “wet signature” or one made in person. As with anything, there are certain circumstances that require special consideration. We will address the use of electronic signatures in a future article.

Beeksma Law

Working with a modern law firm

At Beeksma Law, excellence is our minimum standard. That means that we keep working with new tools to adapt to changing circumstances and leverage technology to provide the best service possible.

If you would like to learn more and see the difference for yourself, we would encourage you to book a call here.

Tips for a Smooth Real Estate Closing

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.

The process of purchasing a home is stressful enough without the added anxiety of worrying about your closing. The last thing you want to do is be worried that something will go wrong and delay the entire process.

That is not how you want to start your life in a new home! That is why we put together a quick list of how you can ensure a smooth real estate closing.

Involve a Lawyer Right Away

The sooner you involve a real estate lawyer in the process, the more time your legal team has to prepare for closing.

Additionally, there may be potential problems that may arise. The sooner your legal team is part of the process, the sooner they will discover those issues and bring them to your attention.

Understand Your Purchase or Sale

It is important that you understand the process. If you are unsure of anything at all, ask questions. Ask lots of questions.

If you are the buyer, ask questions about closing costs and fees. If you are the seller, ask your realtor if they can provide a list of all expenses that will be associated with selling your property.

Your real estate team, which includes your realtor, your mortgage lender, and your real estate lawyer, is there to educate you and make sure you are empowered during your transaction. They should clearly explain different documents to you and make sure you fully understand the impact of the decisions you are making along the way.

A great real estate lawyer will explain everything in a manner that is easy to understand.

Plan and Budget

Besides the purchase of the house, there are many closing costs that you must account for, including any inspections and legal fees. Make sure that you have budgeted to account for these costs.

In addition to your budget, it may be a good idea to have an emergency fund set aside for any additional expenditures that come up. For example, if the house needs repairs or maintenance after you move in and they are not covered by insurance. It is best to discuss these possibilities with your real estate agent so that you can plan ahead.

real estate closing
Businessman working on Desk office business financial accounting calculate

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Communication is key in any working relationship, but it is critical for a smooth real estate closing.

You must be quick to inform your team if there are any material changes that may affect your deal, such as changing employers or any issues that come up with the house you are selling.

On the day of closing, it is particularly important to be in communication with all of the different parties. One of our clients recently said, “The team communicated with us regularly leading up to our closings and both closings were handled quickly and with as little stress as possible.” At Beeksma Law, we believe that communication is the cornerstone to a smooth transaction.

Have Confidence in Your Professional Team

Of course, the best tip we can give to ensuring a smooth real estate closing is to have dedicated professionals who are committed to your success!

At Beeksma Law, we have earned our clients’ trust by providing dedicated and attentive service. We are ready to help you through your next real estate transaction.

Contact us today for a free consultation to make sure that your closing goes smoothly!

Important Documents You Need Besides a Will

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.

Life is unpredictable and sometimes things happen that were not part of the plan. That being said, we discussed before how important planning is and how a will protects those important people in your life. 

However, that is not where estate planning starts and ends.  There are other documents, for example, a power of attorney, that you will want to have in place.

In this blog post, we’ll go over some of the most important documents you should have besides a will to ensure that your loved ones are fully cared for and protected.

If you would like to learn more about how we help our clients with their estate planning, please visit here or book a call with us here.

power of attorney

What is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal document that gives another person, known as an attorney for property or attorney for personal care, the power to make certain decisions for someone (known as the grantor) who has given them power.

In other words, this person will have similar powers and rights you have when it comes to making important decisions on your behalf, from financials to health care, if you are unable to make those decisions yourself.

In Ontario, there are two categories of Powers of Attorney:

  • Power of Attorney for Personal Care
  • Power of Attorney for Property

Let’s start with the power of attorney for property.  That category is further split into a continuing power of attorney or a non-continuing (general) power of attorney.

The difference between the two is within the name and the length of effectiveness. A continuing power of attorney will handle your financial affairs if you cannot, including if you are mentally incapable.

A non-continuing (general) power of attorney will cover your financial affairs, but not if you become mentally incapable. This type of power of attorney may be used if you are going to be away for an extended period of time and will need someone to handle your affairs in Ontario.

A Power of Attorney for Personal Care will cover personal decisions for you, such as decisions related to your health if you cannot make those decisions yourself.

Can I have a living will?

You may have heard the term “living will” before, but it is not recognized in Ontario. However, an advanced medical directive can be prepared that outlines your wishes in the event that you cannot make those decisions for yourself.

You may wonder how that differs from a power of attorney for personal care. A power of attorney for personal care appoints someone to make those decisions for you.  An advanced directive will not name any individual but will set out your wishes.

This is important to have if you have strong feelings about your medical care, such as whether or not to prolong your life in certain situations or if there are medical procedures or practices that you are morally opposed to.  Some clients choose to include their advanced directive with their power of attorney for personal care so that their attorney is aware of their wishes.

trust for children

Do I need a trust for my children?

Many parents leave their estates to their children in the event that both parents pass away.  However, it can be concerning to wonder if their child will be ready for that responsibility on their 18th birthday.

Our role as parents is to protect our children and sometimes that means protecting them from themselves. 

A trust is a legal entity that holds your estate on behalf of your beneficiaries. A trustee is appointed to distribute the estate as per your instructions. For example, that may mean allowing certain expenses (i.e. buying a home, university, etc.) while holding onto the bulk of the estate until the beneficiary reaches a certain age, such as the age of 25, when most persons are far more fiscally responsible than they were at, for instance, age 18.

Comprehensive Estate Planning

As you can see, there is more to estate planning than a will. Of course, each document mentioned above has its own legislative requirements to be valid and legally binding.

Speaking with a lawyer about your estate planning is a necessary step. Have the peace of mind that your family will not be unduly burdened with legal complications after you have passed.

Speak with us today about how we can ensure that your estate planning is comprehensive and fits your needs. Book a call here.

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