Alternatives to Litigation

In family law, many people assume that if parties cannot come to an agreement on their own, their only option is to resort to litigation.  This can be a daunting prospect.  The courtroom is intimidating, and the processes, paperwork, deadlines and procedural rules involved can be complicated to navigate.

There is good news though, as parties have more options now than ever before to minimize the need to go to court or opt out of that process entirely.   While coming to a full agreement with your former partner is ideal, and sometimes the only assistance needed is to get paperwork drafted to make an agreement binding, obviously that doesn’t work for everyone.  Even in high conflict matters, options are available to you.

  1. Dispute Resolution Officers

Many jurisdictions encourage resolution prior to going to court.  In Alberta one of the programs available to people is called a “DRO”.  As part of the court process, if you are making an application for child support in the Court of Queen’s Bench, you are first required to attend with a DRO, or a “Dispute Resolution Officer”.  It is a one-hour appointment at the courthouse that is free of charge to you where you and your former partner attend before an experienced family law lawyer in an attempt to resolve the issue of child support.  While a court date may be booked, be sure to make use of this session to try to come to an amicable resolution out of court.

2. Mediation

Mediation is available through a variety of programs.  In Alberta, the courts have a family mediation program through Resolution and Court Administration Services that is free for parties where one party has a gross income of less than $40,000 annually.  They can help with issues around parenting, support and property. 

Mediation is also available privately.  Many law firms have lawyers who are specially trained in mediating family law disputes.  In such cases, the lawyer would be hired by both parties to be a neutral third party to try to assist parties in coming to an amicable resolution.  In some cases, parties may agree to both attend at the mediation without having their own lawyer, or without those lawyers being present.  In other cases, called “lawyer-assisted mediation”, parties may attend with the mediator and their lawyers to try and get a resolution.  

The rate of resolution during mediated sessions is remarkably high, and while more than one appointment may be necessary, if both parties are committed to the process, resolution can occur without the delays and uncertainty of litigation.  The best thing about coming to a mediated resolution is that you had your say in the outcome.  If going in front of a judge, you never know what Order you might end up with.

3. Mediation/Arbitration

This is a process that begins with mediation but has certainty that if the parties are unable to come to a resolution, a decision will be made.  This process can again be done either with or without lawyers for each party.   Some law firms also have some lawyers who have additional training in arbitration and can offer their services as Mediators and Arbitrators.   While arbitration can be done without the mediation phase, typically mediation is attempted first in the family law context.

Parties would sign a contract with the third-party Mediator/Arbitrator that would give the Arbitrator the authority to decide for them if it became necessary.  They would essentially replace the role of a judge in a court process.  The Arbitration Act allows for this and the decision of the Arbitrator is as binding and determinative as a court ruling.  If parties try mediation but are not successful in resolving their difficulties, the process would move to the “arbitration” phase.  Here they would present all the evidence necessary and put forth their argument to the Arbitrator.  The process, timelines, rules of evidence and format of the arbitration are all customizable to the parties.  Once the process is over, the Arbitrator would issue a formal Arbitration Award to the parties giving the decision.

Arbitration has many benefits.  It allows parties to refine the process to meet their needs and does not have the same procedural requirements that would be encountered in a court process. 

While it sometimes seems more expensive up front because parties must hire an Arbitrator privately, it often ends up saving money, particularly if the other option is going to court, which often requires multiple court visits and if a trial is necessary, booking years in advance due to an overburdened court system.

Please feel free to contact our firm if you have any questions regarding alternative forms of dispute resolution.  All our lawyers are well versed in the practices, and we do have a Mediator and Arbitrator on staff as well.

Disclaimer :

Although we are a law firm, this blog post does not constitute legal advice. It is for informational or entertainment purposes only and shouldn’t be seen as financial or legal advice of any kind. You should consult with a lawyer before relying on any of the information contained in this blog post. We can be contacted at (403) 981 0700 to set up a consultation with one of our lawyers who can review the specific circumstances of your matter and provide you with personalised legal advice.

When can I get divorced?

For many people, the thought of having to go through a divorce is a traumatic and sad occasion. For others the relationship is so clearly over that the first question we get asked is ‘when can I get divorced already?’

The answer, in typical lawyer fashion, is “it depends.” In all likelihood, after one year of separation.

Before a court will grant a divorce it has to satisfy itself of two factors. That 1) there has been no collusion between the parties and, 2) that reasonable arrangements have been made for the support of any children of the marriage.

Ideally property division would also be addressed but if we are talking about the fastest time to get divorced, those are the two required elements.

Therefore, provided there has been no collusion between the married couple AND arrangements for any children have been made, the couple are able to divorce as soon as one of the grounds for divorce are established. Those grounds are:

  1. That the parties have lived separate and apart for at least one year; or
  2. One party has committed adultery; or
  3. One party has treated the other spouse with physical or mental cruelty.

If adultery or physical/mental cruelty are established, the divorce could be completed as soon as arrangements for any children have been made. If there are no children of the marriage, the divorce could be granted immediately.

There is one difficulty with this approach, and it’s the reason that I say that in most cases the earliest the divorce can be granted is after one year of separation: the other party has to admit the adultery or their physical or mental cruelty.

Although it is a valid ground for a divorce, in the absence of an admission by the party who committed adultery, or subjected the other to physical or mental cruelty, the person bringing the divorce still has to prove their allegation. That may require a lengthy and costly court hearing that is unlikely to be concluded within a year.

Unless there are very good reasons why it’s important to have the divorce granted on the basis of adultery or physical/mental cruelty, in all likelihood, waiting for the one-year separation mark will still be the quickest option.

The divorce proceedings can still be commenced much sooner though. It’s just the application for the final divorce judgment that has to wait on that one-year mark. In fact, there are often many advantages to commencing the proceedings well in advance of one-year’s separation. It can take time to finalise issues of support and property division, and important discussions to try to finalise those matters can therefore take place in the meantime.

If you are looking to assess your options and discuss the possibility of starting separation proceedings, we can help you get some clarity.

Article by Paul Manning

Disclaimer :

Although we are a law firm, this blog post does not constitute legal advice. It is for informational or entertainment purposes only and shouldn’t be seen as financial or legal advice of any kind. You should consult with a lawyer before relying on any of the information contained in this blog post. We can be contacted at (403) 981 0700 to set up a consultation with one of our lawyers who can review the specific circumstances of your matter and provide you with personalised legal advice.

Costs in Family Law Disputes

As a starting point, in all types of litigation costs are generally awarded to the successful party. The goal is to compensate the party in the “right”, possibly to penalize the losing party (depending on their conduct), discourage needless litigation, and act as an incentive for early settlement. However, in family law “success” is often not black and white.

Types of Costs

Costs are always discretionary.  The Court has the power to award or not award costs, and can choose the type of costs that are awarded.

The Court may order a lump sum amount, taxed costs, taxed costs on a particular column (often called “Schedule C Costs”), “solicitor-client costs”, or assessed costs.

  1. Lump sum amount – no reference to Schedule C of the Rules of Court. For example, the Court may say “$500 in costs awarded to the Plaintiff.”
  2. Taxed costs – the Court will choose an amount that may be a multiple, proportion, or fraction of an amount set out in any column in Schedule C. For example, “$150 in costs awarded to the Plaintiff, being half the amount awarded under 6(1) of Column 1 in Schedule C.”
  3. Taxed costs on a particular column – the Court will specify a column to follow, for example, “Column 1 Schedule C costs awarded to the Plaintiff.”
  4. Solicitor-client costs – the Court will order one party to pay all of the reasonable costs of the other party. These costs can be awarded with respect to a specific issue or part of an action. These types of costs are awarded in extremely rare circumstances.
  5. Assessed costs – the Court will order that the parties attend with an assessment officer and will have costs assessed.

Reality of a Costs Award

We often hear client’s say “and he(she) can pay all of my costs because they are the one being difficult.” The truth is, often family files do not end up in Court, and it is rare that someone will volunteer to pay the other party’s costs.

When the file does end up in Court, absent of extreme misconduct by a party, Courts will often tell the clients to bear their own costs, or will make a costs award that is severely insufficient to the actual costs that were spent preparing for and attending Court.

Lost Wages, Travel Costs, Parking,
etc.

Courts will not include losses in income due to attendance at court or extra costs paid by either party in any costs award, unless they are true and approved disbursements.

Divided Success

Most commonly in family law cases, the outcomes are divided success. This is because Courts often focus on coming to a middle ground between parties. Their number one concern, when children are involved, is the best interest of the child(ren). Using this focus, a Court will often try to put an order in place that they may see the most fitting for the child, however, not in line with either the Applicant nor the Respondent’s proposal, therefore having no clear “successful party”.

Offers to Settle

Lawyers will often present opposing parties with offers to settle, or Calderbank offers (named after the 1975 case Calderbank v. Calderbank). These are offers that are provided to the other party prior to the Court date, with a reasonable time open for acceptance. If the result of the Court’s decision is as good as or better than the offer for the person who made the offer, the Court may choose to award enhanced costs to the successful party. This is done to encourage settlement prior to trial.

While I have tried to simplify costs and provide a brief overview, they are a very
complicated part of the process. If you have further questions on costs, or are
in need of any family law assistance or advice, please feel free to contact our
office at 403-981-0700 to schedule an appointment with one of our lawyers.

Article by Candace Wray

Disclaimer :

Although we are a law firm, this blog post does not constitute legal advice. It is for informational or entertainment purposes only and shouldn’t be seen as financial or legal advice of any kind. You should consult with a lawyer before relying on any of the information contained in this blog post. We can be contacted at (403) 981 0700 to set up a consultation with one of our lawyers who can review the specific circumstances of your matter and provide you with personalised legal advice.

A Puppy’s Christmas

Our blog post is coming out a few days early this month as we will be closed for the holidays from Monday December 24 to Wednesday January 2.

Law school has taught us that the appropriate thing to say at this point is the following:

“Please accept without obligation, express or implied, these best wishes for an environmentally safe, socially responsible, low stress, non addictive, and gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday as practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice (but with respect for the religious or secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or for their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all) and further for a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated onset of the generally accepted calendar year (including, but not limited to, the Christian calendar, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures). The preceding wishes are extended without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform, or sexual preference of the wishee(s).”

This is Cochrane though and we do things differently at Mountain Vista Law. So we’ll just settle for saying that, from all of us to all of you, we want to wish all our clients and their families a relaxing and enjoyable holiday season, and we’ll see you all in the New Year.

We are all big dog lovers here so for any puppy parents out there, we bring you “A Puppy’s Twelve Days of Christmas” by Elise Lewis.

On the first day of Christmas my puppy gave to me
The Santa topper from the Christmas tree.

On the second day of Christmas my puppy gave to me
Two leaking bubble lights
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.

On the third day of Christmas my puppy gave to me
Three punctured ornaments
Two leaking bubble lights
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.

On the fourth day of Christmas my puppy gave to me
Four broken window candles
Three punctured ornaments
Two leaking bubble lights
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.

On the fifth day of Christmas my puppy gave to me
Five chewed-up stockings
Four broken window candles
Three punctured ornaments
Two leaking bubble lights
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.

On the sixth day of Christmas my puppy gave to me
Six yards of soggy ribbon
Five chewed-up stockings
Four broken window candles
Three punctured ornaments
Two leaking bubble lights
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.

On the seventh day of Christmas my puppy gave to me
Seven scraps of wrapping paper
Six yards of soggy ribbon
Five chewed-up stockings
Four broken window candles
Three punctured ornaments
Two leaking bubble lights
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.

On the eighth day of Christmas my puppy gave to me
Eight tiny reindeer fragments
Seven scraps of wrapping paper
Six yards of soggy ribbon
Five chewed-up stockings
Four broken window candles
Three punctured ornaments
Two leaking bubble lights
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.

On the ninth day of Christmas my puppy gave to me
My wreath in nine pieces
Eight tiny reindeer fragments
Seven scraps of wrapping paper
Six yards of soggy ribbon
Five chewed-up stockings
Four broken window candles
Three punctured ornaments
Two leaking bubble lights
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.

On the tenth day of Christmas my puppy gave to me
Ten Christmas cards I shoulda mailed
My wreath in nine pieces
Eight tiny reindeer fragments
Seven scraps of wrapping paper
Six yards of soggy ribbon
Five chewed-up stockings
Four broken window candles
Three punctured ornaments
Two leaking bubble lights
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.

On the eleventh day of Christmas my puppy gave to me
Eleven unwrapped presents
Ten Christmas cards I shoulda mailed
My wreath in nine pieces
Eight tiny reindeer fragments
Seven scraps of wrapping paper
Six yards of soggy ribbon
Five chewed-up stockings
Four broken window candles
Three punctured ornaments
Two leaking bubble lights
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.

On the twelfth day of Christmas my puppy gave to me
A dozen puppy kisses

And I forgot about the other eleven days.

We’re sure all dog lovers can relate!

Disclaimer :

Although we are a law firm, this blog post does not constitute legal advice. It is for informational or entertainment purposes only and shouldn’t be seen as financial or legal advice of any kind. You should consult with a lawyer before relying on any of the information contained in this blog post. We can be contacted at (403) 981 0700 to set up a consultation with one of our lawyers who can review the specific circumstances of your matter and provide you with personalised legal advice.

Keeping sane during separation

It is common knowledge that the process of divorce and separation can be emotionally and mentally taxing on everyone involved, and that engaging in litigation can increase that stress and frustration exponentially. Taking steps to manage your mental health and well being during the legal process can help you remain level-headed and clear minded when negotiating with your ex-spouse, and can give you a head start on establishing new routines and positive habits once the litigation is over.

There are, however, a variety of mental health professionals offering services that may benefit you, and which type of service you choose may depend on the specific circumstances of your divorce or separation.

Life/Divorce Coaching

Despite maintaining a somewhat “bohemian” reputation, life coaching or divorce coaching is gaining traction as a method of working through the mundane mental and emotional exhaustion that comes with the process of divorce and separation. The theory of coaching is that, regardless of what your current life circumstances are, the day you begin coaching will be considered “Ground Zero” and you will only work on moving forward.

Given the lack of regulation over the coaching industry, individuals should be cautious and do thorough research before hiring a coach. However, if you are able to find a coach that you trust and connect with, this process may be beneficial for those who are not otherwise suffering from any mental health concerns, but who are just looking to make a fresh start after a divorce or separation, or who are seeking support and guidance through the legal process.

Counselling/Therapy

With more training than coaches, counsellors and other therapists are more suited to assisting a broader range of individuals and issues. The Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association notes that counselling is principally concerned with helping individuals “resolve specific problems, make decisions, cope with crises, develop personal insights and knowledge, work through feelings of inner conflict, or improve relationships with others.”

Whether you attend with a licensed counsellor, psychotherapist, or psychologist, therapy may be beneficial for those who are struggling with depression, anxiety, or other emotional burdens, such as betrayal or anger, that you believe may be clouding your ability to effectively negotiate with your former spouse. Depending on the age of your children, parents may also benefit from attending at family counselling in order to ease the mental and emotional burden on all members of the family.

Risk Assessment

Conducted by a registered psychologist or psychiatrist with specialized training, a Risk Assessment is a formal process generally ordered by the courts for individuals that present one or more risk factors with respect to parenting. These risk factors can include, but are not limited to, drug and alcohol addiction, criminal convictions involving violence, a history of domestic violence (often articulated through Emergency Protection Orders or other No Contact Orders), mental health concerns, and other concerns, including issues related to sexual abuse or violence.

If any of these concerns have arisen in the course of your divorce or separation proceedings, you do not need to wait until a court orders you to undergo a Risk Assessment before seeking the professional advice or assistance of a psychologist or psychiatrist. Formal assessments are often only ordered in severe cases, but those who are struggling with addictions, mental health crises, or who have a history of violent behaviour may benefit (both personally and in court) from taking proactive steps to improve their mental health and wellbeing.

If you are confused about which style of services may be the best for you, your lawyer may be able to provide you with a recommendation or even a referral. Although some clients are concerned about the stigma associated with seeking out mental health resources, being clear-minded and having the proper support systems in place will enable you to provide your lawyer with better instructions and to traverse the legal process with greater clarity and less emotional stress.

Article by Staci Smith

Disclaimer :

Although we are a law firm, this blog post does not constitute legal advice. It is for informational or entertainment purposes only and shouldn’t be seen as financial or legal advice of any kind. You should consult with a lawyer before relying on any of the information contained in this blog post. We can be contacted at (403) 981 0700 to set up a consultation with one of our lawyers who can review the specific circumstances of your matter and provide you with personalised legal advice.

A lawyer when you need one; Independence when you don’t

We know it can be tempting to tackle your family law matters, such as divorce, property division, parenting or child support issues alone. Lawyers aren’t cheap and the Judge is bound to listen to your arguments and see your point in any event, right? Well, maybe, but maybe not. The question is whether you have the necessary set of skills to navigate the legal process on your own and ensure the court hears your best legal arguments. The nuances of the court process and the complexities of the numerous forms and paperwork can be frustrating and intimidating to anyone who hasn’t studied the system. Even lawyers find the process complex at times so it’s no wonder it can seem overwhelming and prohibitive to anyone trying to go at it alone.

Marriage is the 7th most stressful thing you’ll do in your life (according to the Holmes and Rahe scale). Divorce and marital separation, regrettably, have the 2nd and 3rd spots locked up (if you’re wondering what’s at number 1, it’s the death of your spouse). That added stress can make representing yourself even harder. At such a critical moment in your life with the parenting of your children and your financial future on the line, it is important to make an informed decision on whether to try to navigate the process alone or hire a lawyer to assist you.

Is it possible to represent yourself? Absolutely. It is not a mandatory step in a divorce or custody dispute to hire a lawyer. The forms you will need to file at the Courthouse can be found on the Alberta Courts website. If you are comfortable identifying and drafting the required forms, you understand the legal system (or have the time to research and become familiar with it), can separate out the legal arguments with the emotional turmoil, are capable of negotiating the terms of a settlement, and are able to speak in court, you may well be able to represent yourself. Some self-represented parties do a very capable job of representing themselves. Others struggle.

Filing the wrong form could result in your case being dismissed. Not understanding the Rules of Court and asking inappropriate questions in cross examination may result in important information not being put before the Judge. Not appreciating the alternatives might result in a case proceeding to a lengthy, stressful and costly trial, when an out-of-court settlement could have been considered and pursued by counsel familiar with the other options. A lack of knowledge surrounding the application of the Federal Child Support Guidelines and the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, as well as the numerous applicable Acts and Regulations, could result in an unfavourable settlement being accepted.

For a long time, and especially in the area of family law, parties have had to make the difficult decision whether to 1) tackle the system alone, potentially extending the time required to settle the dispute; or 2) incur the expense of instructing a lawyer.

There is however an emerging middle ground which can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of justice for those not ready or able to commit to full-time representation. More and more would-be self-represented parties are opting to instruct a lawyer on a limited scope retainer, dealing with the parts of their case that they have the confidence and capacity to deal with themselves, and involving their lawyer for only the parts they need assistance with.

If you would like to have the assistance of a lawyer but cannot commit to the full retainer required to have counsel by your side throughout the process, Mountain Vista Law may still be able to help. Call us today at (403) 981-0700 to discuss the possibility of unbundling services and instructing one of our lawyers on a limited scope retainer.

Article by Paul Manning

Disclaimer :

Although we are a law firm, this blog post does not constitute legal advice. It is for informational or entertainment purposes only and shouldn’t be seen as financial or legal advice of any kind. You should consult with a lawyer before relying on any of the information contained in this blog post. We can be contacted at (403) 981 0700 to set up a consultation with one of our lawyers who can review the specific circumstances of your matter and provide you with personalised legal advice.

Wills – Requests that are out of this world!

There sure are some strange Wills out there!  While most people will benefit their spouses or children, some can get quite creative when deciding what happens to their estate when they pass away.  Here are a few examples of some strange Wills that have been drafted throughout the years.

1.       Leona Helmsley left $12 million to her dog.  After family contested her Will, a judge changed that number to $2 million.  Still a nice pay day for a pooch!  This is the most well-known instance of pets inheriting, but Ms. Helmsley is not the only person to have done so.  Eleanor Ritchey left $14M to her 150 stray dogs, and rumour has it that Oprah Winfrey may have similar plans!

 2.       Charles Millar was the cause of what is now known as the “Stork Derby”.  He was a Toronto lawyer (of course he was a lawyer!) who bequeathed his estate to the woman in Toronto who birthed the most children between the date of his death and the 10-year anniversary of his death (which ended up being between 1926 and 1936).  Four women ended up sharing the grand prize and getting over $100,000 each.  A significant sum of money for the era, and probably very welcome considering they all had 9 kids within a 10-year span.

 3.       Cecil Harris sadly died tragically in 1948 in Saskatchewan when he got pinned under his tractor, alone in the fields of his farm.  He used a pocket knife to scratch the tractor’s fender, indicating that his estate should all go to his wife.  He was found after being trapped for an estimated 10 hours but died in the hospital shortly after being freed.  The next day the Will was discovered and deemed to be a valid holograph Will by the courts.  The relevant portion of the fender was cut off and put on display under glass in the University of Saskatchewan’s law library.

 4.       Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral da Camara was a reclusive man living in Lisbon.  He had no family or friends he wished to leave his estate to, so prior to his death he picked 70 people at random out of a phone directory in front of witnesses at a registry’s office.  They were to be contacted only after his death about the bequest.  Imagine getting that call out of the blue!

 5.       Annie Langabeer apparently didn’t like her brother.  In her Will she left 2 shillings and sixpence to enable him to purchase a rope – the presumption being that he hang himself.  Ouch!

 6.       Thomas Shewbridge was a rancher who owned shares in a local electric company.  In his Will, he gifted his shareholder rights to his two dogs.  This made them part owner of the electric company.  Apparently no one had any concerns over the K-9’s, as they frequented board of director and shareholder meetings.

 In your will, you can also specify your requests regarding burial and cremation (though these requests aren’t necessarily legally binding on your executor).  There are some notable odd requests for what people want to happen to their body after they die.

 1.       Gene Roddenberry had his ashes scattered in space.  When his wife died, years later she too decided to blast off and join him.

2.       Sandra West also had an odd burial request.  As a wealthy socialist, she requested to be buried reclining in her baby-blue Ferrari and dressed in her favourite lace nightgown.  After some debate, this strange request was allowed and remains a point of some talk in San Antonio, where the burial happened.

 3.       Mark Gruenwald had his ashes mixed into the ink to print “Squadron Supreme” by Marvel Comics.

 4.       Ed Headrick invented the Frisbee and had his ashes moulded into limited edition Frisbees.

These are all great for a laugh, but sticking with a more “standard” Will is less likely to be disputed. 

People who are financially dependant may have some rights when it comes to distributing an estate, regardless of what is written in a Will, and getting too creative may lead some disappointed relatives into questioning the mental capacity of the testator.

Give us a call at 403-981-0700 if you have any questions about Wills!

Article by Erin Barvir

Disclaimer :

Although we are a law firm, this blog post does not constitute legal advice. It is for informational or entertainment purposes only and shouldn’t be seen as financial or legal advice of any kind. You should consult with a lawyer before relying on any of the information contained in this blog post. We can be contacted at (403) 981 0700 to set up a consultation with one of our lawyers who can review the specific circumstances of your matter and provide you with personalised legal advice.

Lawyers are smart, but not always that smart!

This month we decided to share a story we came across recently. Hopefully it’ll provide you with a laugh as we head into the weekend.

“Maybe the best lawyer story of the year, decade, and probably the century.

A Charlotte, North Carolina lawyer purchased a box of very rare and expensive cigars, then insured them against fire, among other things. Within a month, having smoked his entire stockpile of these great cigars and without yet having made even his first premium payment on the policy, the lawyer filed a claim against the insurance company.

In his claim, the lawyer stated the cigars were lost in a series of small fires. The insurance company refused to pay, citing the obvious reason that the man had consumed the cigars in the normal fashion.

The lawyer sued … and WON! (Stay with me here.)

In delivering the ruling, the judge agreed with the insurance company that the claim was frivolous. The judge stated nevertheless, that the lawyer “held a policy from the company in which it had warranted that the cigars were insurable and also guaranteed that it would insure them against fire, without defining what is considered to be unacceptable fire” and was obligated to pay the claim.

Rather than endure a lengthy and costly appeal process, the insurance company accepted the ruling and paid $15,000 to the lawyer for his loss of the rare cigars lost in the “fires.”

NOW FOR THE BEST PART…

After the lawyer cashed the check, the insurance company had him arrested on 24 counts of ARSON! With his own insurance claim and testimony from the previous case being used against him, the lawyer was convicted of intentionally burning his insured property and was sentenced to 24 months in jail and a $24,000 fine.

This is a true story and was the First Place winner in the recent Criminal Lawyers Award Contest.

Only in America!”

Source : http://www.berro.com/joke/best_lawyer_story.htm

Disclaimer :

Although we are a law firm, this blog post does not constitute legal advice. It is for informational or entertainment purposes only and shouldn’t be seen as financial or legal advice of any kind. You should consult with a lawyer before relying on any of the information contained in this blog post. We can be contacted at (403) 981 0700 to set up a consultation with one of our lawyers who can review the specific circumstances of your matter and provide you with personalised legal advice.

How to Choose Your Lawyer

Choosing a family lawyer can be a very difficult and stressful process. Everyone has fears that they will end up with the lawyer who is money driven and does not care about their situation. Lawyers are very different from one another, and it is important to get the right fit for you. After all, we are dealing with your family and your future.

How do you ensure you get the right fit?

1) Meet with the lawyer before you decide. If necessary, meet with more than one. It is very important that you and your lawyer trust each other, and that you feel as though your lawyer understands your goals and what is most important to you. If during your initial meeting you don’t get a good feeling, trust your gut and move on. It is way cheaper and easier to move on early in the process than to try to switch lawyers part way through.

 

2) First impressions matter. The organization and initial feeling of the firm can be an indication of the treatment you will receive as a client. Lawyers rely heavily on their support staff, and good lawyers will ensure they surround themselves with good people. You want to make sure the firm feels friendly and welcoming as a whole, and makes you feel as though you are not just a number but an actual person with specific needs.

 

3) The elephant in the room – Costs.

 

a) Hourly Rates. Most family law matters are dealt with on an hourly basis and lawyers hourly rates vary widely. Typically, an hourly rate is based on experience. Experience, however, does not always mean valuable or applicable experience. Quiz your lawyer about what their experience is and if they have had your type of file in the past. If cost is a particular issue to you, also ask what options you may have to keep costs manageable.

 

b) Junior v. Senior. There is no hardline definition of what a “senior” or “junior” lawyer is. Senior lawyers have been practicing longer, but don’t fall into the trap of believing that necessarily means they are better.  There are plenty of junior lawyers out there who are fantastic, are most up to date on the current laws, and have the best passion for their work.  Be wary of lawyers who continuously refer to themselves as “senior counsel” as this may be an indication that they have a false sense of their own abilities. Dig a little deeper.

 

c) Case Specifics. Some cases can be resolved out of Court, others may require litigation. Litigation is always costly. There are plenty of methods of alternative dispute resolution that may be appropriate for your case, and may save time and money. Be sure your lawyer advises you on all of your options, not just those focused on litigation, and whether or not they are willing to pursue those alternatives.

 

4) Be upfront about your expectations, and ensure you get answers that make you comfortable. Ask the lawyer what their standard of practice is. For instance, if you are someone who likes constant communication with your lawyer, you will not find success with a lawyer who takes a more hands off approach (though keep in mind, every communication does cost money). On the other hand, someone who does not like to move quickly or feel like they are under time constraints may feel pressured by a lawyer who wants to get things done expeditiously. Either way, there is no excuse for a law firm not returning your calls within a reasonable amount of time. One to two business days is industry standard, unless your lawyer is away or fully booked on a file, in which case someone at the firm should be able to notify you and help you out in the event of an emergency.

 

5) Keep in mind that a lawyer can’t promise anything. Be wary about a lawyer that tells you they will get you everything you are asking for without any hesitation. Court is very difficult to predict, regardless of the strength of your case. You should find a lawyer that is willing to go to bat for you, but also tell you when your demands may not be achievable. A good lawyer won’t promise the moon just to get you in the door.

 

6) Trust the experience of others, but take them with a grain of salt. Research your lawyer. Positive reviews are a good indication that a lawyer and their staff will treat you with respect and take your case seriously. Ask around for personal recommendations, particularly people who have experience with the lawyer in their professional capacity. Also keep in mind that some people have had negative experiences as law, by it’s nature, is confrontational. No matter how good a lawyer is they won’t win every case or be the right fit for every person. A single poor review may not be reflective of the lawyer’s abilities, but be more of an indication of a bad fit. On the other hand, multiple poor reviews are a red flag. Google reviews, social media reviews, and Lawyer Ratingz (www.lawyerratingz.com) are all good places to start.

There are many fantastic family lawyers out there who will make it their goal to guide you to the best outcome possible. Shop around, do your homework, and most importantly trust your intuition.

Article by Candace Wray

Disclaimer :

Although we are a law firm, this blog post does not constitute legal advice. It is for informational or entertainment purposes only and shouldn’t be seen as financial or legal advice of any kind. You should consult with a lawyer before relying on any of the information contained in this blog post. We can be contacted at (403) 981 0700 to set up a consultation with one of our lawyers who can review the specific circumstances of your matter and provide you with personalised legal advice.

You’ve been named as an Executor? What next?

You’ve been named as an Executor? What next?

Your role begins the moment your loved one passes away so it’s important to know what rights and responsibilities you have and how you should exercise those powers. They can be broken down into the following five steps:

Step One – Make funeral arrangements

Perhaps surprisingly, there is no obligation to consult with the deceased person’s family. Where practical to do so, it is still preferable to obtain their input, but the ultimate decision about what should happen to the deceased person’s remains lies with you. The funeral expenses are paid out of the estate and must be reasonable in all the circumstances. Unless you get a draft from the deceased’s person’s bank, you may have to pay those expenses first and seek reimbursement from the estate once the grant of probate is issued. This unfortunately could take months.

Step Two – Identify estate assets and liabilities

This is your first big task and one of the most important (and time-consuming) ones. The key thing to do is to keep a very clear, organised inventory of all the estate assets and liabilities. This is going to be vital if you are ever challenged. This could include property in Alberta, outside the province, or in another country altogether.

Step Three – Obtain a grant of probate if necessary

It is sometimes possible to administer an estate without a grant of probate but, in many cases, a grant of probate will be required in order to withdraw assets from financial institutions, or transfer land. It is an application that is made to the Court including the relevant forms.

Step Four – Satisfy debts

The next step is to ensure that all debts (testamentary expenses, taxes and other debts) are satisfied before the assets of the estate are distributed. Provided you are satisfied that the estate is large enough to pay all debts, you can pay the debts of the estate in any order. If there is any concern there may not be sufficient assets to pay them all, it is vital that you pay them in the order specified by the legislation.

It is also possible to advertise for creditors and claimants to ensure you find them all. Executors can be held personally liable for debts if they start distributing the estate to beneficiaries before all debts have been satisfied.

Step Five : Distribute the estate

The final step is to distribute the estate to the beneficiaries. You are entitled to be paid a reasonable amount for your work as an executor, taking into account various factors.

Whatever is left after the debts have been paid, including your compensation for acting as executor, should then be distributed. It is good practice to obtain a release from each beneficiary before distributing assets to them to ensure that there is no dispute at a later stage.

Whether or not that is the end of your responsibility, or just the beginning, will depend on whether there are any ongoing roles for you to fulfil, such as maintaining or administering any trust.

We hope the above information helps to get you started in your new role as an executor. If you need any more information, or would appreciate guidance along the way, our lawyers at Mountain Vista Law would be pleased to help you. Feel free to call us on (403) 981-000 and we can set up an appointment to discuss your options with you.

Article by Paul Manning

Disclaimer :

Although we are a law firm, this blog post does not constitute legal advice. It is for informational or entertainment purposes only and shouldn’t be seen as financial or legal advice of any kind. You should consult with a lawyer before relying on any of the information contained in this blog post. We can be contacted on (403) 981 0700 to set up a consultation with one of our lawyers who can review the specific circumstances of your matter and provide you with personalised legal advice.