5 Contracts that Your Small Business May Need

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.

There are many different types of contracts that a small business might need, and it is important to know which ones you will need in order to avoid any problems. In this post, we will go over five types of contracts that a successful small business may need. There are many others out there, but these five should cover most bases!

At Beeksma Law, we are also entrepreneurs and are passionate about helping small businesses and entrepreneurs succeed!

In fact, one client recently said, The team at Beeksma Law made this process so easy for me! They helped me determine what I needed to include in my contract and helped me understand each component.”

If you want to take a closer look at your existing contracts or want to talk about some new ones, then do book a call today to discuss your business needs with our team.

Do I need a contract?

This comes up often, especially when doing business with someone familiar. There is a conversation and everyone is in agreement, so why have a formal agreement?

Because too often, memories of conversations become clouded over time. In the absence of a contract, assumptions can be made. Assumptions become misunderstandings that quickly snowball into disagreements.

Too often, we see small businesses realize too late that an ounce of prevention would have resulted in a pound of cure.

Protect your relationships by having a contract in place. Clearly outline roles, responsibilities, expectations, and boundaries. Contracts don’t have to be complicated, but they do need to exist.  

Can I Do it Myself?

Let’s first discuss the danger of trying to write your own contracts or use templates from the internet!

Imagine you found a box lying in the ditch that said “cookies”.  Would you take it home and eat it? No! You have no idea where it came from and if it contains something that might be damaging to you.

It’s the same idea with template contracts. Unless you know the source, you cannot be sure if it is right for your business.  It could be written with a different jurisdiction in mind. It may reference antiquated legislation or a recent case may have clarified a certain point of how contracts should be drafted.

Whatever the issues, the result would be the same: you would have a contract that would not be serving your business and would, as a matter of fact, do real damage down the line.

Knowing that you need contracts specific to your business, which ones do you need? Here are just some of the contracts that your small business may want to have in place.

Service Contract

A service contract is an agreement to provide some service, whether it is a one-time event or ongoing.

A good service contract will contain the following:

* Details of the service and how long it will take to provide.

* Payment details, including when payment is due and whether there are any fees for late payments or missed deadlines.

The contract should also contain a termination clause so that either party can terminate at their discretion without penalty if they believe the other side is not fulfilling their obligations under the contract.

Website Terms of Use Agreement

If your business has a website (and yours most likely does) then you will need a website terms of use agreement.

Basically, it is an agreement between your business and users on the website outlining what visitors can and cannot do with the information contained therein. For example, a strong agreement will contain copyright protection warnings or sets forth any disclaimers related to the information on the website.  It will also contain a privacy policy that discusses the collection and use of any personal information obtained.

Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)

In order to do business, you sometimes need to share information with a potential client or a contractor. An NDA, also called a confidentiality agreement, protects the confidential information of your business, whether it is a product or service you are developing or the processes that you use every day in your business.

You have worked hard to develop your business and that information should not be used to further someone else’s goals.  A non-disclosure agreement can help to protect your business and its intellectual property.

Lease

If your business has a physical location, you are likely going to be leasing that space. 

You are going to want a lease agreement that outlines the terms of your relationship with the landlord.  

As well, your landlord likely provided you with a lease to be signed.  You are going to want to make sure that your lawyer reviews that lease before you sign it. She will make sure that you fully understand and agree to its terms. She may also give you some recommendations on negotiating certain terms so that you have more rights. 

Additionally, your business may be creating or selling products, so you will need to include information in the lease about what can and cannot be done on the property.

While each business is different and each space is unique, a lease will generally include the following:

  • the parties
  • details about the space, including:
    • the address
    • a legal description
    • the square footage
    • the type of space (warehouse, office, retail, etc.)
    • the term of the lease
    • the amount of rent
    • any fixtures that are included
    • any security deposits
  • how the property can and cannot be used.

A lawyer that understands business contracts and real estate is an invaluable resource when it comes time to negotiate a commercial lease for your business. 

Partnership Agreement

You may not be starting your business on your own. You may be working with a partner.

Of course, you go into business with someone because you get along. What could possibly go wrong?

As it turns out, there can be many disagreements that arise in the absence of a strong partnership agreement. While ideally a partnership agreement is drafted before you start your business, it can be written up at any point.

Basically, a partnership agreement sets out the relationship between business partners and their individual obligations.  A partnership agreement should include: 

  • the amount of capital that each person is investing in the business;
  • how profits and losses will be shared, split, or otherwise distributed between partners;
  • how the business will be run; and
  • how the partnership can be dissolved.

In the absence of a partnership agreement, the Partnerships Act sets out default rules that may not be to your benefit.  Therefore, it is prudent to put a formal agreement into place that sets out the terms of the partnership clearly.

Prevent Issues Before They Arise

At Beeksma Law, we are passionate about preventing or de-escalating issues before they turn into larger legal battles. One way that small businesses can avoid hefty legal expenses is by having the right contracts in place.

If you would like to learn more about how we help small businesses, please click here or book a call with us.

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!

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. 

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.