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Disclaimer: This article is intended for the purpose of providing for your pets, including creating pet trusts. It 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. It does not purport to be exhaustive.
Whether or not you call them your fur baby, our pets are more than animals for many of us. To many Canadians, they are beloved family members, providing companionship, joy, and comfort.
Because their lifespans tend to be much shorter than ours, we assume we will outlive our pets. However, that is not necessarily true. So, just as you meticulously plan for the well-being of your loved ones in your estate plans, it’s crucial not to overlook your furry or feathered friends.
If you are a pet owner, how can you include your pets in your estate plan? What are your options? That is what we will consider in this article.
The Legal Landscape in Ontario: Pets as Property
Under Canadian law, including in Ontario, pets are considered property, and as such, they lack the legal capacity to own or inherit assets. This classification presents unique challenges when explicitly leaving money or property directly to your pets in your will. However, this doesn’t imply a lack of options for securing their future.
There are three basic ways to ensure your pets are cared for after you’re gone:
- Designate a caretaker
- Designate an organization to act as a caretaker
- Set up a pet trust
Designating a Caretaker: Choosing Guardianship for Your Pet
Similar to appointing guardians for minors, identifying a trustworthy caregiver to care for the pets after you’re gone is crucial. Consider family members or close friends who share a bond with your pets and are both willing and capable of providing lifelong care. A heartfelt conversation with your chosen caretaker is essential to ensure they understand and accept this responsibility. While a primary caretaker is crucial, it’s wise to designate a backup in case your original caregiver is unable to care for your pet.
Additionally, consider charitable organizations or shelters specialized in pet care. For instance, most Humane Societies offer a pet stewardship program, assuming custody and finding loving homes for pets after their owners pass away.
Financial Provisions: Ensuring the Financial Security of Your Pet
To alleviate financial concerns associated with pet care, consider you should leave an amount of money to your pet guardian in your will. This fund can cover expenses like veterinary care, grooming, food, and any unforeseen medical treatments your pet might require.
How much should you leave for pet care? That depends. Consider how long your pet’s life is expected to be, what costs you are currently incurring and other factors.
Incapacity Planning: Securing Care During Your Lifetime
As we have noted before, you need more than a will. What happens if you become incapacitated and can no longer care for your pet? Trusts and powers of attorney can be instrumental in addressing your pet’s care in case of your incapacity. While pets can’t inherit funds directly, a trust can designate funds for your pet’s care, with conditions tied to the designated caretaker ensuring proper care.
Setting up a Pet Trust: Ensuring the Future Care of Your Pets
While various trusts can be drafted, establishing a trust for pets demands precision to ensure its legality and enforceability. As the legal landscape surrounding trusts for pets continues to evolve, three fundamental rules are worth mentioning.
Beneficiary Enforcement and Legal Standing
One crucial element of any trust is that there must be a beneficiary or trustee who can enforce the terms of the trust. Practically and legally speaking, pets obviously lack the capacity to enforce a trust.
Purpose and Charitable Intent
Trusts must serve a clear purpose or have identifiable beneficiaries unless their purpose is deemed charitable. For instance, trusts designed for research and support surrounding a specific disease are considered charitable in Ontario. However, trusts created solely for pets might not meet the criteria for charitable purposes under the law.
Lawful Conditions and Public Policy
A trust can make gifts conditional on specific actions, provided these conditions are lawful and do not conflict with public policy. Creating a pet trust that adheres to these rules involves designating specific beneficiaries. As part of your trust, you can include instructions for the care of your pets. Funds from the trust are allocated for the explicit purpose of caretaking.
Additionally, each trust requires a termination date, signaling the final distribution of the trust fund. In the case of a pet trust, the termination typically coincides with the death of the last surviving pet. Any trust funds left are distributed per the terms outlined in your will.
Creating an Estate Plan For Your Peace of Mind
Navigating the complexities of caring for every part of the family after you’re gone can be overwhelming. Seeking guidance from an experienced estate lawyer, such as the professionals at Beeksma Law, can streamline the process. An estate lawyer can help formalize legal arrangements, ensuring your directives concerning your pet’s care are documented, legally sound, and enforceable.
Incorporating your pets into your estate planning demonstrates a commitment to their well-being and happiness. Your furry friends hold a special place in your heart and deserve careful consideration in your plans for the future.
At Beeksma Law, our dedicated estate planning team understands the significance of including your pets in your estate plans. Contact us today for compassionate legal guidance to secure the future of your beloved pets.
Disclaimer: This article is intended for the purpose of providing an estate planning checklist. It 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. It does not purport to be exhaustive.
Estate planning is a crucial process. It allows you to make important decisions about the future of your assets, your loved ones, and even your own well-being.
Whether you have a complex or simple estate, putting an estate plan in place is a gift to your loved ones. Planning ahead for the future, seeking professional advice and creating estate planning documents has many benefits. It will make your wishes clear, can help you lower probate fees and minimize your estate trustee’s liability.
In this blog, we will provide an estate planning checklist with many areas to consider. Let’s delve into some of the essential decisions you must make during your estate planning process.
The importance of a proper estate plan
A well-thought-out estate plan is incredibly important. Not only does it safeguard your assets, but it also ensures that your loved ones are taken care of, and your final wishes are honored.
It will help your estate trustee make decisions and move more quickly through the probate process. Without a comprehensive estate plan, the distribution of your assets can become a contentious and complex process, potentially leading to disputes among family members.
However, it’s not just about your last will and testament. You need important documents, such as your powers of attorney, to allow someone to make critical decisions about who will manage your financial and healthcare affairs if you become incapacitated.
Who will be your executor or estate trustee?
The executor of your estate plays a pivotal role in ensuring your wishes are carried out according to your will. Typically, spouses are named as the primary executors, but it’s important to consider alternates, such as close friends or family members, in case your spouse cannot fulfill this role. You can even select two or more individuals to act as co-executors but remember that they must work jointly to manage your estate efficiently.
Your executor administers your estate and carries out many responsibilities. Learn more about choosing the right person for your estate administration here.
What assets do you currently own (including life insurance policies, digital assets, etc.)?
You will want to make an up-to-date list of your significant assets, including any life insurance policies, real property and other items. With regards to property or bank accounts, are there any of them owned jointly with your spouse?
Do you own any foreign assets? If so, note the location if outside your province. Specify the country in which these assets are located. This information is crucial for the smooth administration of your estate, as different countries have varying laws and regulations regarding foreign assets.
Who did you choose as the beneficiary when you completed the beneficiary designation for your life insurance? It’s important to ensure that your selection aligns with your estate documents.
Who are your beneficiaries?
Making a list of beneficiaries is a fundamental aspect of estate planning. Typically, spouses designate each other as primary beneficiaries, followed by their children in equal shares. Additionally, you should plan for contingencies, such as if one of your children predeceases you, ensuring their share goes to their children (your grandchildren).
Who will be your ultimate distribution beneficiaries?
Consider who should inherit your assets if none of your named beneficiaries are alive at your death and they leave no children behind. Common choices for ultimate distribution beneficiaries include siblings, parents, cousins, close friends, or charities. Your estate planning should reflect your preferences for these scenarios.
Would you like to create any beneficiary trusts?
If your beneficiaries include minors, you have the option of setting up a trust to manage their inheritance. You can choose between a “standard” trust, where the minor receives their full inheritance at a specified age (e.g., 18, 21, 25), or a graduated trust, which disburses the inheritance in stages. Clearly define the ages, amounts, and number of disbursements preferred to meet your objectives.
Would you like to create any other trusts?
Trusts can serve various purposes, from minimizing estate taxes to providing for specific needs of your beneficiaries or even supporting charitable causes. Your decision to establish additional trusts should be guided by your financial goals and family dynamics.
Who will be the guardians of any minor children?
If you have minor children, it’s crucial to appoint guardians who will take care of them if you and your spouse are unable to do so. Typically, spouses name each other as primary guardians, followed by close family members or friends as alternates. You can also designate a second alternate to ensure the well-being of your children.
With regards to your guardians, it is advisable to make sure they know that you have chosen them for this serious responsibility.
Are there any specific gifts or cash legacies you would like to bequeath?
If you have particular items or cash amounts you wish to leave to specific individuals or charities, be sure to document these in your estate plan. These specific gifts ensure that your cherished possessions and causes you care about are remembered and honored.
It may be wise to include specific gifts as a schedule to your will. For example, suppose you want a specific piece of jewelry to go to a certain grandchild. However, you then lose that piece of jewelry before you pass away. A separate schedule makes it easier to update specific gifts without having to amend the entire will.
Who will be your power of attorney for property?
Your Attorney for Property will manage your financial affairs in the event of incapacity. Typically, spouses name each other as primary appointees, followed by alternates.
When it comes to choosing co-attorneys, you have the option to decide whether they should act jointly or jointly and separately.
Jointly: If you choose to have your co-attorneys act jointly, they must make decisions together and reach a consensus. This approach ensures that all major financial decisions require the agreement of both co-attorneys, which can provide an added layer of security and oversight.
Jointly and separately: If you opt for joint and separate authority, your co-attorneys can make decisions together, but they can also act independently when necessary. This approach balances joint decision-making and the flexibility for each co-attorney to manage specific financial aspects without needing the other’s approval for every transaction.
You also need to specify when their power of attorney will come into effect. You can decide whether it should take effect immediately upon signing or only upon your incapacity.
If you grant them immediate authority, they can begin managing your financial affairs as soon as the document is executed. This means avoiding any delay involved with determining that you are incapable of managing your affairs. However, it also means that they can make decisions without your direct involvement, which may not be suitable for everyone.
Who will be your power of attorney for personal care?
Your Attorney for Personal Care is responsible for making medical and healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so. Typically, spouses choose each other as primary appointees, followed by alternates. Again, if you appoint co-attorneys, decide whether they should work jointly or jointly and separately.
In addition to these decisions, there are other factors to consider.
You should clearly state your organ donor status within this document to ensure your preferences regarding organ donation are respected.
Furthermore, you may want to consider whether your appointee should receive compensation for their role, as serving as an Attorney for Personal Care can be a demanding responsibility.
Lastly, suppose you hold specific religious or cultural beliefs that are important to you with respect to medical treatment and end-of-life care. In that case, it is essential to include them in your document. This will help guarantee that your healthcare choices align with your personal values, providing assurance and preserving the integrity of your healthcare decisions.
What are your burial wishes?
Finally, consider your burial wishes. This may include decisions about cremation, burial, or even specific details such as the choice of cemetery. If you have pre-planned your funeral, provide these details to ensure your wishes are carried out.
Regularly update your estate plan.
Life is constantly evolving, and so should your estate plan. Major life events such as marriage, divorce, the birth of children or grandchildren, changes in financial situations, and even changes in tax laws can all have a significant impact on your estate planning needs. By revisiting and updating your estate plan periodically, you can make necessary adjustments, address any new concerns, and guarantee that your loved ones are well-protected and that your assets are distributed as you intend.
Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney, as well as receiving accounting or similar professional advice can help you navigate these changes and ensure that your estate plan remains a reflection of your current wishes and goals.
Get started on your estate plan today!
Our estate planning checklist is just the beginning of creating your estate plan . When it comes to the complex legal aspects of planning your estate, Beeksma Law is your trusted and experienced partner. We primarily focus on estate law and with our estate litigation experience, we have the unique ability to craft legal documents that not only reflect your intentions but also minimize potential liabilities.
By reaching out to Beeksma Law, you can be confident that we will handle your estate planning needs with professionalism and expertise, protecting your assets and legacy for future generations.
Disclaimer: This article is intended for the purpose of providing information on rural property in Ontario 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. Updated October 2023.
Driven by rising house prices and the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 64,000 people left Toronto between mid-2020 and mid-2021. Many families are reevaluating their situations and are seeking greener pastures, quite literally.
Rural properties are becoming more popular as people are looking for more space and a slower pace of life. If you’re considering making a move to the country, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
There are considerations that you will want to consider for your family. For example, if you work from home, consider the internet quality and reliability in the area. If you have children, consider the schools and extra-curricular activities that are available. Don’t forget to account for the extra-long commute when you do need to go to the office.
However, from a legal standpoint, there are also differences in purchasing a rural property compared to an urban or suburban one. In this article, we will outline those unique requirements.
- Road and waterfront access
- Septic systems
- Water tests
- Shared wells
- Planning Act contraventions
- Surveys and boundary issues
Of course, we encourage you to book a call with our team as soon as you have made an offer on your next dream home. We’re here to help and would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.
Accessing Your Dream Home
You may have found your dream home, but can you access it?
Road access can be a critical concern, especially for waterfront or vacation properties. Sometimes, the access road or driveway crosses private land, and there may be no guaranteed legal right of use. Responsibilities for road maintenance are often unclear, creating the risk of access restrictions or unexpected repair expenses.
Your lawyer’s title search may involve tracing legal access through private properties to connect to a municipal road. Title insurance can help resolve access problems, but it’s not always available.
In Ontario, many bodies of water are encircled by a shoreline road allowance owned by the Crown. Typically, municipalities sell this road allowance to property owners. If this applies to the property you’re buying, it might encompass multiple parcels and PINs (Property Identification Numbers).
When reviewing a legal description that references a past instrument number, your lawyer will have to verify that it covers all the land you expect to acquire.
For properties where the shoreline road allowance hasn’t been purchased and conveyed, inquire about the proximity of any improvements to the water’s edge. Suspicion of encroachments onto the shoreline road allowance should prompt consideration of obtaining a survey.
Septic Systems Inspection
When you are buying a rural home that has a septic system, you will want to do a septic system inspection. In fact, your lender will usually required that it be done before approving your mortgage.
Many homeowners that are selling will provide it automatically, but if not, you will need to get this done.
The septic systems inspection will check items such as the size of the septic tank, the location of the leach field, and the condition of both. The inspector will also look for any signs of damage or leaks. This is important because if there are any problems with the septic system, it can be very expensive to fix.
Another inspection that you will need to have done is a water inspection. If your home has a well, then you want to make sure that the water that you are getting is safe. Poor water quality can cause health problems, taste unpleasant or be costly to treat.
Therefore, if the seller does not provide this information to you, you will need to have a water inspection conducted to ensure that your water is not contaminated. Your realtor or our team can direct you how to have those tests completed.
Shared Wells & Shared Well Agreements
Rural real estate transactions can present unique challenges, and one such complexity involves shared wells. In rural areas, properties might rely on wells, some of which are shared among neighbors.
If you’re considering purchasing a property with a shared well, there are several crucial considerations.
Shared Well Agreement: Verify if there is a shared well agreement in place. The absence of such an agreement can lead to disputes and confusion regarding maintenance, repairs, and water usage responsibilities. Ensure there’s an agreement before finalizing your purchase.
Existing Shared Well Agreement: If a shared well agreement exists, obtain a copy and review it with legal counsel to understand your rights and obligations. The agreement should outline maintenance, cost-sharing, and water usage limitations.
Well and Water Quality: Assess the condition of the shared well and the water quality. If issues arise, negotiate repairs or upgrades with other parties sharing the well.
Risks and Limitations: Understand the potential risks of shared wells, such as contamination or overuse. Shared well agreements can restrict property modifications, so consider how they impact your future plans, such as pool installation or well expansion.
Title Restrictions: Unlike shared driveways, shared well agreements are typically not registered on property titles. However, it’s advisable to have such agreements prepared and passed from owner to owner.
Learn more about shared wells here.
Planning Act Contraventions
Because rural properties are generally not part of a plan of subdivision, our team will check for any Planning Act contraventions as part of our title search process.
If you are purchasing a property that is either zoned agricultural or mixed-use, you will likely need to have a survey done before purchasing the property.
Otherwise, you may opt to have a survey done to be sure of the property boundaries. This is especially true if your property is large and open, with no fencing to mark those boundary lines.
This is something that you can discuss with your realtor or our team. Surveys can take months to complete, so unless it is zoned, as noted above, you can have that completed following your closing date.
Make a Move: Buying a Rural Property in Ontario With Beeksma Law
As you move out to the country, be sure to take the proper legal steps in your move. With offices in Hamilton and Owen Sound, Beeskma Law is poised to be able to handle your transition from urban to rural living. Our team is experienced in rural property transactions and would be more than happy to help you with any questions that you may have. Contact us today!
Disclaimer: This article on preparing estate documents is intended for the purpose of providing information only. It 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.
We have talked before about the importance of having a will and powers of attorney in place. But what does it look like to have them done? We turned to one of our recent clients to tell us about her experience working with our firm.
Tell us about yourself
I am a 30-something-year-old married mother with one child. My husband and I have been married for quite a while, and up until recently, we did not have any estate planning documents.
I had met Shayna in a networking group, and when we decided it was time for a will, we turned to the incredible team at Beeksma Law.
What made me think about estate planning?
Like many people, we had not spent much time thinking about our own mortality. Yes, anything could happen, but it was not at the top of our minds. A couple of things convinced us that it was time to document our wishes.
First, we became parents, which changed everything for us. The question of what would happen to our son if something happened to both of us loomed over us. While we knew that our families would step in and care for him, what would that look like? Would he be receiving money at 18 that he is ill-equipped to handle? What if there were disagreements about who would be his guardian?
Also, the pandemic taught us that anything is possible. Anything can happen at any time. We had fooled ourselves into thinking that we didn’t need to do this process because we were relatively young and healthy. However, we came to realize that that didn’t matter.
While we considered a will kit, ultimately, we decided to work with Beeksma Law. Yes, it was more expensive, but I work with other types of templates in my line of work. They can be okay. However, they will usually not give you the same kind of quality that you get when you make an investment and work with an expert.
What did you appreciate about the experience?
I like to do my research, and when we approached Shayna and her team, I thought we had thought things through. I was wrong! During our first meeting, we outlined a number of areas that had never even crossed my mind. We appreciated how thorough she was and that the documents that we prepared fully considered what happens after we are gone.
We also appreciated being able to do our powers of attorney at the same time. During our conversations, we were helped to appreciate that a will only comes into effect when we die. What would happen if we were in a terrible accident? Who would handle our affairs?
We appreciated Shayna’s patience with us, answering every single question that we had under the sun. She was more than willing to make sure we understood our options and the implications of our choices.
What was it like working with a virtual law firm?
We loved it! We last worked with a lawyer when we purchased our house. At that time, we had to take time off work, travel to the lawyer’s office, and discuss and sign the documents.
We had wanted to work with Beeksma Law and were grateful that things were done virtually. Her offices are in Hamilton and Owen Sound. We are located east of Toronto. It would not have been practical if we couldn’t have attended virtual meetings and signings.
With a virtual law firm, we did not have to do any of that! We had one meeting where I was in the car between appointments, and my husband was able to step away while working. It was so much easier to schedule and attend our meetings with Beeksma Law. When it came time to sign, again, it was so simple. Everything was set up for us to sign virtually, saving us time and effort.
Simply put, we are pretty busy, and anything easy and straightforward is a big win for us.
How do you feel after preparing estate documents?
We feel so much better – this had been hanging over our heads. With strong documents in place, we feel so much more confident knowing our child will be well cared for.
We are so glad that we also worked with the team at Beeksma Law. They made everything so clear, simple and easy to understand. They ensured that nothing fell through the cracks and were incredibly organized.
We are extremely pleased with our decision to work with a firm specializing in estate law. We didn’t get the feeling that they dabbled in it or treated it as just another service they provided. Their expertise and passion were evident throughout the process, and there was no doubt that this was their area of expertise.
Preparing Estate Documents with Beeksma Law
At Beeksma Law, we love helping families feel confident about their futures by creating strong estate documents. Contact our team today to learn more about how we can help you.
Disclaimer: This article on owning a tiny home in Ontario is intended for the purpose of providing information only. It 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.
As rents and housing prices become increasingly less affordable, more Ontarians are looking into tiny homes. For example, Ancaster’s first Tiny Homes Show was held in August 2022 and drew over 2,000 visitors and had over 20 speakers presenting on a variety of topics. Shows like Tiny House Nation have become increasingly popular and many wonder if a tiny home may be the solution.
With their cozy interiors, clever design features, and the promise of financial freedom, tiny homes have become appealing. Many see tiny homes as a way to downsize, reduce their ecological footprint, and embrace a more intentional way of living.
However, what legal issues should you consider before selecting your floor plans? What are the challenges to legally owning and parking a tiny home? What should you consider if you want to build a tiny home in Ontario?
This article will consider these questions and more. Whether you are looking at a tiny home or a [something], it is important to have the right real estate lawyer by your side. Our team of legal experts will guide you through the intricacies of home ownership, helping you navigate the legal landscape and ensure compliance with local regulations.
What is a Tiny Home?
In Ontario, a tiny home refers to a small, self-contained dwelling that typically ranges from 100 to 500 square feet in size. These homes are designed to maximize functionality and efficiency within a limited space. Tiny homes in Ontario often prioritize sustainable living, minimalism, and affordability, making them an attractive alternative to traditional housing options.
While each municipality will have its own requirements, the tiny house construction bylaws mandate that a tiny home must measure between 17.5 ft2 (188 ft2) and 37 m2 (400 ft2 ). It must also meet these requirements:
- It must meet the Ontario Building Code requirements for health and safety;
- You must be able to live in it year-round
- It must have an area for dining, living and sleeping and have a functional kitchen and bathroom.
- It must have sewage and water hookups.
Financing your tiny home
It’s worth noting that it’s incredibly difficult to secure financing for your tiny home. Lenders are reluctant to provide traditional mortgage loans for tiny homes due to their unique nature and less confidence in their resale value. However, there are still financing options available to help you fund your tiny home project. For example, if you are purchasing from a tiny home builder, they will typically have their own financing plans in place.
Municipal requirements for your tiny home in Ontario
The municipality where you intend to park your tiny home will have various bylaws and zoning requirements that may affect you.
- Minimum lot size
- Minimum residential building size
- Distance from lot lines and/or a public street
- Height requirements
- Parking needs
- Access to municipal services (sewage, electricity etc.)
- Architectural design
- Access for emergency services.
Land Lease to Park Your Tiny Homes
Finding suitable land to park your tiny home is a critical step in realizing your tiny living dreams. Whether you’re looking for a permanent location or a temporary spot, there are several factors to consider when searching for the ideal piece of land.
However, like any agreement, you’ll want to consider carefully your land lease. Some areas to consider include:
Can you connect to essential utilities, such as water, sewage and electricity? How will the costs be shared? Are there any restrictions to your use of the utilities?
- Maintenance costs
Clarify the costs associated with the land lease. In addition to the monthly rent, are there any other fees, such as property taxes, maintenance fees, or utility expenses? Who is responsible for maintenance and repairs to the property, such as landscaping and snow removal? Discuss any potential increases in rent over time and whether there are provisions for negotiating lease terms in the future.
- Your use of the land
When leasing land to park your tiny home, it’s essential to discuss and understand your permitted use of the property. Are there any restrictions or limitations on the activities you can engage in on the land? Are there specific rules regarding modifications to the land or the number of occupants allowed? It’s important to clarify these details to ensure that your intended use aligns with the terms of the land lease.
- Lease term and termination
Review the lease duration and termination conditions carefully. Is the lease for a fixed term or a month-to-month basis? Understand the process for terminating the lease and any penalties or notice periods involved. It’s also important to consider if there are any options for lease renewal or extension if you plan to park your tiny home on the land for an extended period.
Beeksma Law: Answering all of your big questions
At Beeksma Law, our commitment to exceptional client service, attention to detail, and in-depth knowledge of Ontario real estate laws set us apart. Contact Beeksma Law today to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards making your home ownership dreams a reality.