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Calgary Real Estate, Wills and Estates, and Business Law Blog

Harassment and bullying can be subtle but obvious

Bullying is an issue in many Alberta workplaces. It is a form of harassment that involves verbal comments or actions that intend to isolate a co-worker. It can also include unwanted physical contact, and repeated actions can intimidate, humiliate, degrade and offend the victim. In some cases, it could develop into aggression, but it is not always easy to differentiate between harassment and powerful management tactics.

WorkSafeBC says typical workplace situations that might be mistaken for bullying include expression of opinion differences and offering advice, guidance or constructive feedback on work-related matters. Reasonable actions by management when it comes to assigning jobs or disciplinary actions are often mistaken for harassment. These actions could be intended to provide assistance to a worker.

Trusts can accomplish many goals in estate planning

Estate planning can be a daunting process for anyone in Alberta without the guidance of legal counsel. One of the estate planning tools that can help accomplish certain goals is a living trust. This option allows a person to pass property ownership to beneficiaries immediately. Once established, a living trust can be modified throughout the testator's life, and because the trust owns the assets, it does not form part of the trustor's estate and is therefore not subject to probate.

Those with children from previous marriages typically find living trusts the ideal way to provide support for an earlier spouse, if desried, and ensure that children receive the inheritances intended for them. In cases in which the surviving spouse's financial expertise is not sufficient to manage the assets in a trust, a trustee can be appointed to oversee the trust on behalf of the surviving spouse. If a child or spouse is disabled, a living trust can provide appropriate care for that person after the testator's death.

Real estate agent commission can be saved when selling your home

Anyone who sells a residential property in Alberta would naturally want to get as much money as possible for it. Having to share the proceeds with a real estate agent can make a significant dent in the financial outcome of such a transaction. The entire process can be navigated with the support and guidance of legal counsel.

One mistake to avoid when going the DIY way is letting emotions rule when deciding on the price at which to list the residence. It might be wise to get an independent third party to help establish a market-related value. It is also crucial for the seller to be prepared for the bidding war and all the other tasks that are typically handled by realtors. One process that can create definite interest is staging the home to highlight its best features and downplay minor deficiencies.

Real estate issues are just part of acquiring a business

The first thing to do when acquiring a business in Alberta is to decide whether to start a new venture, buy an existing business or purchase a franchise. Along with the cost to acquire commercial real estate, the running expenses, projected returns, the value of the time and attention it will require must be considered. Knowing and understanding how the business will meet the goals of the purchasers will improve the chances of success.

Buying an existing business is one way to avoid the risks and expenses of starting a new business. However, even buying an already established business comes with pros and cons. One option is to buy a franchise that has already proved to be successful. Along with the purchase comes benefits that include marketing and publicity, established management and production methods, advice from knowledgeable franchisers and superior buying power.

Mediation can eliminate the need for civil litigation

Owners of commercial enterprises in Alberta have to deal with many challenging situations every day. When disputes arise, they might need legal counsel to help resolve issues through mediation rather than civil litigation. It is a process by which the needs, interests and perceptions of each party are shared, and all work to resolve their differences amicably without laying fault to the other party.

Mediation is an informal but confidential process, whereby a professional mediator provides a platform and facilitates negotiations. No party is forced to accept or agree to any particular settlement, and the mediator, who is an independent third party, leaves all decisions for the parties without coercion. The mediator may explain available options that might bring resolve, but he or she may not provide legal advice.

Personal directives are essential parts of wills and estates

Alberta residents who have established estate plans will want to review those documents at regular intervals to ensure they remain current. Many of life's changes like births, deaths, marriages and divorces might affect those plans. Also, it is wise to make sure that previously named powers of attorney and personal directives are still available and able to play those crucial roles in the event of the testator becoming debilitated.

A personal directive allows the chosen person to make decisions about all nonfinancial, personal matters if the testator is not able to take care of such issues. This gives the planner the opportunity to record specific wishes or preferences with relation to health and other personal matters from which the individual specified in the personal directive can gain guidance when he or she must make decisions. It can also include wishes related to elder care and/or a nursing home.

Harassment over mandatory footwear a thing of the past

As from the start of this year, safety authorities in Alberta followed the lead of other provinces in prohibiting business owners and employers from enforcing footwear rules that could be harmful to employees. Women in Alberta workplaces are particularly grateful for this rule that will stop harassment by employers and supervisors to force them to wear high heel shoes. Amendments were made to the Occupational Health and Safety Code that will only allow mandatory footwear for safety purposes, such as steel-tipped safety boots, and not for looks or the company's image.

Female housekeepers, servers and bartenders and other positions -- mostly in the hospitality industry -- have had to risk their health for many years by wearing high heels. The Minister of Labour said that preference must be given to healthy workplaces in which women can work safely without wearing footwear that creates safety hazards. According to the government, prolonged wearing of high heels can cause musculoskeletal disorders and painful feet while also posing slip and trip hazards.

Commercial law: The threat of internal and external theft

Business owners in Alberta face a multitude of challenges. One of those is theft, and commercial law allows steps to be taken to minimize theft opportunities and protect assets. Many owners choose to utilize legal counsel to assist with establishing a strategy to prevent theft -- both external and internal.

Business owners must not underestimate the inventiveness of potential shoplifters in their quest to steal merchandise without paying for it. Their actions could include shoplifting, breaking in or fraudulent returns. Using surveillance equipment and mirrors will let them know that they are being monitored, and it might deter external theft. Other crucial steps include frequent inventory taking, always responding to a security alarm and varying the routines of procedures such as the timing and the route taken to the bank to deposit cash.

Appointing power of attorney as a part of estate planning

It is not uncommon for people to avoid thoughts about their own mortality. However, proper estate planning can provide valuable peace of mind, not only for the event of death but also to prepare for possible incapacitation. Many people in Alberta establish powers of attorney as a part of their estate planning.

A power of attorney is not a person but rather a legal document by which an attorney -- not necessarily a lawyer -- is appointed to handle a person's finances if he or she becomes incapacitated and unable to deal with financial matters. The person who is named as the attorney in the legal document will have access to the testator's banking transactions, including the power to sign cheques. He or she can borrow money and do real estate transactions on behalf of the testator along with any other responsibilities allocated in the power of attorney document.

How effective are non-solicitation clauses?

Employees in Alberta with exceptional skills are often the subjects of poaching. However, would such a worker be allowed to accept an irresistible offer from his or her employer's opposition? Many business owners identify high-value employees with specialized skills and have them sign non-solicitation clauses to prevent losing valuable clients to an opposing company in the same market.

The need for ever-better technological skills makes staff poaching a popular method of obtaining expertise without having to lay out finances for training and skills development. However, there is a difference between poaching and solicitation. While both are becoming par for the course in almost all employee contracts, it is the non-solicitation clauses that stand up better in court. These are agreements that prohibit employees from soliciting clients after leaving one firm and taking on a job at an opposition company.

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