Monthly Archives: January 2015

Legal Issues “Health Check” – A Quick Checklist

We are all busy people and lead busy lives.   Here is a quick checklist of a few key issues that we should all take the time to stop and consider to make sure that our “affairs are in order.”

1. Estate Planning Documents.  Do you have a will, power of attorney, and personal directive in place? If you don’t, you should.  If you do, your Will and other estate planning should still  be reviewed on a regular basis.  We recommend that you review your planning at least once a year, every time that there are changes in your personal or financial affairs, if you move outside the province of Alberta, or if you acquire property outside Canada.

2. Location of Key Documents.  Store your estate planning documents in a safe place and make sure that someone else knows where these documents can be found. There is no requirement to store the documents in a safety deposit box, but you can certainly do so. Keep an up to date list of key persons who need to be contacted in the event of your death or incapacity, including your personal representatives. Make sure someone knows where to find this list. Keep a current list of your assets and debts, and keep this list with your estate planning documents along with any important related documents such as title to any real estate that you own, insurance policies and any investment statements

3. Insurance.  It is important to review your insurance needs and the adequacy of your existing coverage regularly.  This includes property insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, and any other insurance particular to your situation.  If you are not sure what insurance you need, speak to an insurance agent or broker.

4. Specialized Beneficiary Designations.  It is prudent to review and confirm the beneficiary designations that you have in place for any RRSPs, RRIFs or insurance products that you have now, or acquire in the future.  If you have or acquire a Tax Free Savings Account in the future, there are similar designations that you should confirm with your financial and/or tax advisors.

5.  Business Operations Contingency Plan.  If you operate a business, you should consider putting a specialized disaster plan together that will allow for your operations to continue in the event of your death or incapacity, but also provide the person who will step in to manage the business with all of the necessary background information (accounts, contacts, passwords, key business information, etc.).  You can consider having a specialized power of attorney in place (in the event of incapacity) to allow a business partner or other person to manage the business.

6. Your Digital Life.  We all lead online lives (if you didn’t you would not be reading this blog…).  Many online service providers  (such as Google) have options for the designation of agents that may step in to access your account in the event you cannot.

At Patriot Law Group, we provide wide ranging legal services, including those relating to estate planning and small business issues.  If you have questions about your legal “health” please contact us.



10 Facts about the Supreme Court of Canada

Every so often, the news carries a story about a recent decision of the Supreme Court of Canada.  Here are ten things that you may not know about the highest court in the land.

  1. It is currently established with 9 judges, including the Chief Justice.
  2. Our current Chief Justice, Beverly McLachlin, is the first woman to serve as Chief Justice, She is also the longest serving Chief Justice in Canada’s history (at 15 years).
  3. Except for the Chief Justice, the regular judges of the Court are referred to as “puisne” (pronounced “puny”) judges.
  4. Should the Governor General of Canada die, become incapacitated, be removed or be absent from the country for a period of more than one month, the Chief Justice or, if the Chief Justice is unavailable, the senior puisne judge of the Supreme Court, would become the Administrator of Canada and exercise all the powers and authorities of the Governor General.
  5. There is a legal requirement for 3 of the 9 judges to come from the province of Quebec, so that the Court has members with a background in the civil law of Quebec (as opposed to the common law used in all of the other provinces and territories).
  6. By tradition (but not by law), the other 6 judges generally reflect the following geographic distribution:  3 from Ontario, 2 from the western provinces (of which 1 is from BC) and 1 from the maritime provinces.  (So far, there has never been a judge appointed from the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.)
  7. The Supreme Court has not always been the final court of appeal for Canada.  From its creation in 1875 until 1949 it was possible to appeal some cases to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the UK.
  8. In 2013 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), the Supreme Court of Canada heard 75 appeals, and heard 517 requests for leave (permission) to appeal.
  9. You can watch Supreme Court of Canada hearings live (by webcast).
  10. All judgments of the Supreme Court of Canada are published online in both English and French, which are equally authoritative.

What is a “Commissioner for Oaths”, anyway?

People often come to us at Patriot Law Group asking that we “commission” documents for them. This usually means they need someone to administer an oath to properly execute the document (although sometimes they really need the services of a Notary Public). Certain documents require more than just a signature to verify that the contents of the document are true. The person who is signing the document must somehow indicate that what they have signed is true and accurate. For example, an affidavit to be filed in court must be given under oath or by affirmation.  A declaration of common law status to Canada Revenue Agency is made as a solemn declaration. A Commissioner for Oaths is a person who is authorized to administer oaths, affirmations, and solemn declarations.

In Alberta, the appointment of Commissioners for Oaths is governed by the provincial Commissioners for Oaths Act.

Members of certain professions are empowered to be Commissioners for Oaths by virtue of their status as a professional. Members of the Law Society of Alberta (lawyers, students-at-law) judges, police officers, Notaries, commissioned officers of the Canadian Armed Forces (who serve full-time), municipal councilors, school board trustees, provincial MLAs, Members of Parliament from Alberta and members of the Senate who live in Alberta are all empowered as Commissioners for Oaths in Alberta and can administer oaths. Their “commission” remains in effect as long as they remain an active member of their profession or in their positions.

People outside of these occupations can be appointed a Commissioner of Oaths by the government but their commissions expire after three years unless they are renewed.  Many support staff members at law offices, insurance brokers and municipal offices have this type of Commissioner.

It is important to remember that a Commissioner for Oaths in Alberta can only administer oaths for documents to be used within Alberta. If a document is going to be used outside of Alberta or sworn by a person who resides outside of Alberta, the person signing will generally need the services of a Notary Public.

It is also important to understand that a Commissioner for Oaths is only empowered to administer an oath, affirmation or solemn declaration. You need a Notary Public to get notarized copies of documents and you still need a lawyer for legal advice.

Acting as Commissioners for Oaths is just one small part of what we do at Patriot Law Group.

Canadian Bar Association – It’s an Important Organization

All of Patriot Law Group’s lawyers are members of the Canadian Bar Association (CBA).  Further, Ed Gallagher is a member of CBA’s “Council” for Alberta.

So, you may wonder, what is the CBA all about?

The CBA is a professional, voluntary, organization formed in 1896 and incorporated by a Special Act of Parliament on April 15, 1921.  The Alberta branch of the CBA was formed in 1915.

The CBA is an ally and advocate of all members of the legal profession and focuses on the interests of justice for all Canadians, more generally.

The mandate of the CBA is to:

  • improve the law;
  • improve the administration of justice;
  • improve and promote access to justice;
  • promote equality in the legal profession and in the justice system
  • improve and promote the knowledge, skills, ethical standards and well-being of members of the legal profession;
  • represent the legal profession nationally and internationally; and
  • promote the interests of the members of The Canadian Bar Association.

The CBA has a lot of political influence nationally and provincially.  The federal Minister of Justice normally attends the CBA annual conference.

At Patriot Law Group, we strongly support the work of the CBA.  If you want more information about the CBA, check out their website.