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

Why are wills and estates important?

Many people in Alberta feel uncomfortable discussing or even considering their own mortality. However, those who die without establishing wills and estates could make life very difficult for the surviving loved ones. Estate planning can give directions about how to distribute a person's assets after his or her death.

Whenever a person dies without a valid will, his or her estate would be considered intestate. Under Canadian laws, the province in which the deceased person lived will then decide how the assets will be distributed, and the fact that there is no will means that the province will have no regard for the wished of the deceased person. Under the intestacy laws, the surviving spouse typically receives the first $50,000 of the estate value. The balance would then be divided between the spouse and any children, with the parents of the deceased person next in line, and then his or her siblings.

Real estate: New condominium regulations include rental deposits

Condominium owners in Alberta may be aware of the condominium governance regulations that were revised and came into effect at the beginning of this year. An experienced real estate lawyer can answer questions about the new rules. One of the revised regulations involves rental deposits that were formerly known as security deposits.

When a condominium owner rents out a unit, he or she might have to pay a rental deposit to the condominium corporation. This deposit covers maintenance, repairs or replacement of common property and corporation property. The corporation must hold the deposit, which cannot exceed one month's rental or $1,000, in a trust. At the expiration date of the rental period, the deposit or the unused balance must be returned to the owner, including interest, if any was earned.

Breach of contract: Impairment on duty creates hazards for all

Impairment while at the workplace could create dangerous conditions for all. Even if it is not stipulated in an employment contract, being impaired at the workplace might be regarded as a breach of contract. The Occupational Health and Safety Act of Canada requires employers in Alberta and other provinces to address workplace impairment. Workers are encouraged to disclose impairment to prevent creating hazardous conditions for co-workers.

Along with alcohol, cannabis and other drugs, other causes of impairment include prescription drugs and fatigue. Temporary stress about personal problems such as financial difficulties or grief can cause impairment and so can anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions. Existing medical conditions that include potential seizures must also be reported to the employer.

Civil litigation: Settling a civil claim has benefits

In many cases in which people in Alberta file civil lawsuits to recover damages sustained, they are unfamiliar with the legal and court proceedings that will follow. The defendant can offer to settle the claim at any stage, even after a court date has been set. When this happens, the plaintiff may not know how to proceed. In most cases, a lawyer with experience in civil litigation can provide valuable advice and guidance.

If the plaintiff receives an offer from the defendant to settle without going to court, the plaintiff has the right to refuse or accept the offer. If the offer is accepted, the defendant can pay the settlement amount into court or directly to the plaintiff. Direct payment will require the plaintiff to issue a dated receipt that contains the amount that was paid, and all the parties must sign it. If the amount is paid to the court, without first negotiating with the plaintiff, the clerk of the court will inform the plaintiff of the offer, and allow 30 days for refusing or accepting the order.

Questions business owners must answer when doing estate planning

Estate planning as an Alberta business owner is significantly more complex than dealing only with personal assets. Wills, trusts and other estate planning documents of business owners should also cover their business assets. Dealing with large estates, tax issues and business succession will likely complicate the process. The business owner may be unsure of whether to seek legal counsel, and looking at specific questions might provide the answer.

Are there co-owners of the business, and if there are, is there a buy-sell agreement in place and does life insurance fund such an arrangement? Who will be the successor of the business, has one been appointed, or is there a process by which a successor will be selected? If the successor is a family member, are there arrangements made to ensure that other family members will receive their fair shares of the assets?

Business and commercial law: When can you refuse service?

Private business owners in Alberta can, under certain circumstances, refuse to serve clients. Business and commercial law even allows the companies to bar customers from entry, as long as these measures are not in violation of state and federal human rights or other laws. While many businesses have dress standards by which people without shoes or shirts are not allowed entry, race, ethnicity, religion, age and many other grounds may not form the basis for refusing service or admission.

Business owners might not be aware that they may not bar entry to a service animal of a person with a disability, nor may they levy service surcharges for the animal. However, if the business has a policy in place to charge the animal's owner for any damages it caused, such charges may be assessed. The customer with the service dog must be informed of the existence of such a policy.

Current real estate trends don't affect Alberta

One of the largest and most important purchases someone can make is buying a house. Purchasing real estate means making a substantial investment that will likely affect one's life for decades. Nevertheless, it can be an exciting time for an individual or family to find the perfect home and make it uniquely theirs. Those in Alberta looking to buy a home may be pleased with the current market trends.

Most of Canada recently witnessed an increase in home prices as high as 12.5%. Even those provinces where home prices dropped saw only slight decreases. This is positive news for sellers in those provinces, but someone trying to sell a home in Alberta may not be so fortunate.

There are no "one-size-fits-all" wills to suit your unique needs

Many Albertans might consider do-it-yourself kits when they decide it is time to address estate planning. The amount of money they can save by finding cheap -- or even free -- offers to draft wills online is often the primary consideration for choosing to proceed without legal counsel. However, the slightest mistake can ultimately result in a will being declared invalid, and it is therefore not surprising that the DIY kits typically have disclaimers that seek to absolve the entity that offers the service of any responsibility for errors and omissions.

The laws that govern wills and estate planning are complicated, and without legal counsel, incorrect wording or provisions of the will could be incomplete or invalid. Circumstances that require careful consideration before drafting an online will kit include plans to get married or divorced. DIY kits also may not effectively address certain scenarios, situations such as being separated from a partner or living with a common-law spouse.

Real estate: What happens with a tenant's abandoned goods?

Owners of rental properties in Alberta often have to deal with goods left behind after tenants abandon a rental unit or vacate the property after the expiration of the lease. This could be a dilemma because the real estate owner has to comply with the Residential Tenancies Act, which sets out the steps a proprietor must take. Each situation is unique, and the property owner must be sure that the tenant has no plans to return before the goods can be deemed abandoned.

A landlord can suspect abandonment if the tenant does not respond to calls or remains unreachable for a significant length of time. If the tenant has failed to pay rent and his or her mail is accumulating and not collected -- or mail delivery has ceased, it could indicate that the tenant has no intention of returning. The property owner might even find that the utilities to the rental unit have been disconnected.

Real estate: What are material latent defects?

Anyone in Alberta who considers selling his or her house might have questions about the process. The seller in a real estate deal has several obligations, one of which is the disclosure of material latent defects. But what are they? Material latent defects are physical defects that are invisible to the real estate agent and prospective buyers.

Defects that could render the property dangerous must be disclosed. Anything that would make it unfit for occupation or to live in or conditions that make the property unsuitable for the buyer's purpose must be declared. Also, any other defects that would likely not be discovered during a visual property inspection must be disclosed. Some shortcomings could even escape discovery by a professional property inspector.

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