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Frequently Asked Questions

Our lawyers take great pride in the quality legal advice and representation they provide. Here we have answered some common questions we receive from our clients. If you have any additional questions reach out to us or schedule a no-obligation consultation.
Should I incorporate now, or start as a sole proprietorship and delay incorporation to a later date?

I want to become an entrepreneur and start a business. Should I incorporate now, or start as a sole proprietorship and delay incorporation to a later date?

The advisability of incorporation is dependent on the particular facts and personal preferences of the entrepreneur. The role of the Lawyer and other professional advisors is to help draw out the relevant facts and explore personal preferences to assist the entrepreneur in making the decision that is right for her. Some of the relevant factors include:

Risk. Is the proposed business inherently risky? The shield of limited liability that an incorporated entity provides to the entrepreneur is an important benefit (note that the shield from liability is not absolute);

Tax. A valuable attribute of an incorporated entity is the relatively low tax rate (approx. 16%) payable on the first $500,000 of net income. This allows a profitable incorporated entity to grow much quicker using internally generated working capital than a similarly sole proprietorship where a marginal tax rate in excess of 50% of profits may be payable. An exception is where the sole proprietor has other sources of income and it is anticipated that the new business will suffer losses in the start-up year(s) – it may be possible to set off the losses against the other income and thus reduce the overall tax burden;

Costs. Incorporation of the business at an early stage is less expensive than incorporation once the business is up and running. Once the business (sole proprietorship) is up and running it is generally necessary to use a “rollover” transaction to transfer the business from the sole proprietorship to the corporation.

Separate Existence. An incorporated entity has a legal existence separate and apart from the entrepreneur. This provides for a number of real and perceived benefits including (generally): broader alternatives for raising capital; easier salability of the business and possible availability of lifetime capital gains exemption to avoid tax on sale, continuous existence past the life of the entrepreneur, public perception of greater substance, and easier separation of personal and business dealings.

Wills - How are they validated? Can I hand write my own?

I made my own hand-written will few years ago. I believe it’s valid and truly reflects my wishes, however my financial advisor told me I should get a proper will drafted by a Lawyer. Why should I do that?

Wills are legal documents that will dictate the distribution of assets after one’s passing and there are many reasons why wills should be prepared by a Lawyer specializing in this area of law.

Formal validity For wills to be valid and legally binding they have to be executed (signed) according to legal requirements. A Lawyer preparing your will would ensure that the document is executed properly and therefore legally valid and binding.

Comprehensiveness A Lawyer can make sure your will deals with all important matters, such as appointment of executor(s) and alternate executor(s), distribution of your assets, appointment of custodians and guardians for your children and setting up trusts for minor beneficiaries. Your Lawyer will also ensure your will gives executors enough powers to properly and efficiently administer your estate and follow your testamentary wishes.

Reflecting all your legal obligation

Under the law you are obliged to provide for your spouse and your dependents. Your Lawyer can advise you of your obligations to such persons.

Clarity of language

A properly drafted will should use language that is clear and precise in order to prevent any issues with interpreting your instructions contained in the document. Your Lawyer will make sure that proper language is being used to avoid any ambiguities and clearly reflect your intentions.

Preventing future challenges to your will

Having a Lawyer draft your will significantly reduces any risk of future legal challenge to its validity based on your legal capacity or any undue influence. When your legal capacity might be an issue, your Lawyer will gather and keep all the required evidence to prove you had the necessary legal capacity to make a will. He or she will also ensure there is no undue influence from any individuals, including family members that would affect any of the provisions of your will.

Can a person with dementia participate in a lawsuit?

“I recently learned that my elderly Aunt is a victim of Fraud. The police have advised me that some victims of the fraud are considering a lawsuit and that someone may wish to speak to a Lawyer on my Aunt’s behalf. My Aunt suffers from dementia and I hold power of attorney. Can my Aunt participate in a lawsuit?"

Special rules apply to lawsuits involving people, like your aunt, who suffer from a mental illness and therefore lack capacity at law.

Generally, children under the age of 18 and people who suffer from mental illness, including those who suffer from dementia, must be represented by a litigation guardian within legal proceedings. There are also special rules which apply to how limitation periods apply to persons who lack capacity at law.

Litigation Guardians assume responsibility for litigation on behalf of a litigant who lacks capacity. Litigation Guardians serve an important role and are saddled with significant responsibilities. They assume the responsibilities of retaining and instructing Lawyers on behalf of the incapable litigant, and litigation guardians assume personal responsibility for any costs liability incurred as a result of a lawsuit.

However, the litigation guardian plays an essential role in ensuring access to justice for some of society’s most vulnerable people. Without people agreeing to stand as Litigation Guardian people who suffer losses could be left without recourse to the courts.

Generally a Lawyer works very closely with a litigation guardian to ensure that risks are properly understood.  Lawyers also put in place measures to ensure the risk of personal exposure to the guardian is minimized.

If you are asked to stand as a litigation guardian you should consult with a Lawyer before deciding whether or not to stand.

Should I incorporate my existing business?

I am the sole proprietor of a profitable construction business that I want to expand. I’m nervous about the risk associated with the business and its expansion. Should I incorporate?

We would strongly recommend incorporation. Incorporation provides you with limited liability to protect your personal assets from creditors, and tax advantages that will help you grow your business and your wealth.

Limited Liability

A corporation is a legal entity distinct from its shareholders. The obligations, debts and liabilities of the business are those of the corporation and not of its shareholders. The protection from creditors is a significant advantage, particularly for businesses that are inherently risky. As the sole proprietor you are currently liable for every debt, liability, obligation and claim against your business. In your construction business, an inadvertent error or mistake by a sub-contractor, or simply the failure of the project caused by others, could result in huge liabilities for which you are personally exposed to creditors, risking loss of your house, savings and other assets. Incorporation of your business creates a significant barrier of protection. (Note: there are statutory and other limited exceptions to the protection provided by a corporation)

Income Taxes

Active business income earned by a corporation is taxed at a much lower tax rate, approximately 15.5% in Ontario on income up to the small business limit of $500,000. This presents two wealth planning opportunities. Firstly, a growing business requires working capital. As a sole proprietorship, growing working capital is hard because profits are taxed at your personal marginal rate of taxation which may be in excess of 50%. By incorporating, you can grow your working capital, and thus expand your construction business, at a much faster rate because of the low rate of corporate tax. Secondly, by leaving profits in the Corporation in excess of your personal needs, you can grow your retirement savings in the corporation at a much faster rate. (In subsequent publications, we will talk about how to creditor-proof these savings).

Tax Splitting

A corporation provides for legal tax splitting with members of your family, if they are made shareholders of your corporation. The shares of your corporation may be structured so that you remain in control of the corporation notwithstanding shares issued to family members.

I've never used a lawyer, what should I expect?

You should expect quite a lot. A Lawyer is both a professional, licensed in Ontario by the Law Society of Upper Canada, and a business person. As a professional, a Lawyer has a number of duties and obligations to you. Some of those duties include:

Quality Work

Your Lawyer should be knowledgeable and professional and provide a quality service. Talk to your friends, neighbors and associates about their experiences with their Lawyer. Many Lawyers will meet for an initial consultation at no-charge. Meet and make an assessment before you retain your Lawyer.

Confidentiality and Privilege

You should expect that confidential information that you disclose to your Lawyer remains confidential. Almost everything that you tell your Lawyer is protected by Lawyer-client privilege, which means that nobody can force disclosure of the contents of any communications between you and your Lawyer, subject to very limited exceptions.


You should expect your Lawyer to be responsive to your communications. Your Lawyer should promptly return phone calls and emails, or arrange for a time to meet where appropriate.

Your Lawyer also Runs a Business

This means that fees are charged to you cover the costs of operating the business, paying rent and assistants and providing a fair return for the Lawyer. Your Lawyer should have an open and frank discussion with you regarding fees and disbursements at the time of engagement. While it is not always possible to provide certainty regarding the fees that will be charged, your Lawyer should be able to provide to you an estimate or range based upon that Lawyer’s experience in similar matters. A signal characteristic of the relationship between a client and Lawyer is that of trust. A Lawyer is obliged to act on your behalf with complete fairness, honor, honesty, loyalty, and fidelity. Above all other qualities, you should expect, and obtain, full and complete trust in your Lawyer.

Why do I need a shareholder’s agreement for my corporation?

“I’ve been told I need a Shareholder’s Agreement - do you have a standard agreement I can use” is something we hear with frequency. It reflects an understanding by the client that a Shareholder’s Agreement is a “good thing”, but without an understanding of what that good thing is. Generally the response of legal counsel to this question is that there is no such thing as a “standard” Shareholder’s Agreement, let’s meet and talk. So what is it about Shareholder’s Agreements that are so valuable and why isn’t there a standard form, like a real estate agreement?

At a high level of abstraction, a Shareholder’s Agreement is a document that expresses the expectations of shareholders in respect of a corporation through legal obligations and rights. The task of the Lawyer in preparing the Shareholder’s Agreement is threefold - discerning what the expectations are (and those expectations are often not fully formed) –  providing counsel on the legal and tax implication on the various alternatives by which those expectations may be realized - and expressing those expectations in the form of contractual terms that bind the parties.

For example, shareholders in a narrowly held private corporation may have an expectation that on death the shares will be purchased. In the absence of a Shareholder’s Agreement, this expectation may not be realized. There is no statute or common law requiring or obligating a purchase. If the remaining shareholders are unwilling to agree to a purchase, the estate is left with the shares and a tax bill. Nothing of course prevents the parties from negotiating a purchase, but the relative bargaining power may have shifted in unpredictable ways, and planning opportunities, such as insurance funding, may have been missed. A Shareholder’s Agreement that addresses these expectations will reflect the parties prior expectations for fairness, and will create certainty.  Legal counsel will discuss alternatives including the corporate purchase of the shares, purchase by the remaining shareholders, and hybrids including spousal rollovers, the tax implications under the alternatives to the estate and to the remaining shareholders, the use of insurance funding, payment terms, security and so forth.

In family held corporations, expectations for succession (how management is succeeded) and liquidation (how the shareholding interests are turned into cash) are particularly difficult and require unique and sometimes innovative solutions. A Shareholder’s Agreement is a valuable tool in estate planning for resolving how competing expectations for liquidation and succession are accommodated.

I was just let go "without cause", what does this mean?

I was just let go "without cause". What does this mean?

Prior to engaging in any litigious action, clients should have a grasp of not only their rights but those of the employer as well. What may not appear fair, maybe either contractually or legally legitimate. The term "without cause" is seen in most termination letters. There's a very clear reason for this.

The threshold for cause is high and, if the employer is unsuccessful in meeting that threshold, they then risk being subject to damages for wrongful termination inclusive of not only proper notice, but aggravated and punitive damages as well.

A prime example of this risk coming to fruition is seen in Ruston v. Keddco MFG. (2011) Ltd., 2019 ONCA 125. Ruston, former president of Keddco, was fired for cause. Keddco alleged that Ruston committed fraud. When Ruston indicated that he would be retaining legal counsel, Keddco advised him that, if he hired a Lawyer, it would counter-claim against him. They warned that the costs of litigation would be extreme to both parties.

Ruston ignored the threat and filed a claim against Keddco. Keddco followed-up on their promise and brought a counterclaim for $1.7 million. The lower court found that the allegations of fraud could not be proven. It was held that Ruston was wrongfully dismissed. He was awarded 19 months termination pay, in addition to $100,000 in punitive damages and $25,000 in moral damages. The costs award was $546,684. The total award, including payment in lieu of notice, was just below $1 million. The Ontario Court of Appeal dismissed the employer's appeal and withheld the lower courts ruling on these matters. Keddco's total losses would have far exceeded $1 million with their legal costs included.

Had Keddco simply terminated the employment without cause and relied on a properly drafted termination provision, Ruston's damages could have topped out at the Employment Standards Act entitlements. Without a contract, common law notice would have been subject to the soft cap of 24 months and early settlement would have been possible. Without the allegation of fraud and the subsequent counterclaim, Keddco's worst-case scenario would have likely been much better than the current end result.

This is an example of why employers are often advised to dismiss without cause, asserting the employer's right to do so and relying on properly drafted contract provisions to navigate the employees' entitlements upon termination.

So what does this mean for employees? Firstly, do not assume that your performance can no longer be factored into an award for termination pay. The employer can always argue "near cause" which has reduced awards in past decisions. Understand, however, that the most prevalent dispute in a without cause dismissal is the employee's entitlement, by contract and by law.

Employees who are terminated without cause, need to acknowledge that the employer has the right to do so. Nonetheless, they must do so while preserving your entitlements. Those entitlements should not be assessed by yourself or your employer. All aspects governing the employment relationship should be forwarded to a competent employment Lawyer. The employment Lawyer will indicate your entitlements and provide an honest opinion on the viability of disputing the package that was offered.

What does this mean for Employees and Employers?

Employees: Once terminated without cause, do not sign a full and final release without having a Lawyer review the employment relationship and confirm your actual entitlements.

Employers: Asserting cause is a risky position to take. Cost-benefit might weigh in favour of dismissing the employee "without cause." The allegation of cause cannot be retracted. Counsel should be sought prior to alleging cause.


Ruston v. Keddco MFG. (2011) Ltd., 2019 ONCA 125 (CanLII)

Ruston v. Keddco Mfg. (2011) Ltd., 2018 ONSC 2919 (CanLII)

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Can an employee be forced to forfeit their unvested shares on a termination without cause?

I was fired without cause. What happened to my company shares or stock options?

Your job was just terminated "without cause" and as if it's not bad enough that you just lost your job, you also find out that your shares in the company are no longer yours. Just like they never existed, any unvested shares are forfeited the day you're terminated. For some, this could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in expected income gone.

So what does "vesting" mean and why is it important in this context? An unvested share simply means that the shareholder's rights to that share is subject to specific conditions. Companies will typically create vesting schedules for the shares they give their employees. The shares are provided to the employee subject to a share agreement which sets out the vesting schedule. That schedule will tell the employee when his/her shares will vest. Once the shares vests, the employee has an absolute right to these shares. They can be sold or kept at the discretion of the employee.

Vesting schedules are extremely useful and can be justified. The logic behind a vesting schedule holds that employees must earn shares that are available to them. The longevity of their employment should be correlated to their performance. If they perform well, their job will remain secure and their shares will vest with time. The vesting schedule dangles the possibility of added income in front of the employee to motivate good performance.

Employers should have the right to motivate their employees in this manner and an underserving employee should not be rewarded with income that was subject to him or her deserving it. Any employee who has justified a termination for cause, should not benefit from the vesting of unvested shares.

The dispute arises when the employee's performance is not at issue. The employee worked hard for the company and did nothing to jeopardise his or her rights to the unvested shares. We know that the employee can still be terminated without cause since no employer is handcuffed to their employees. The dilemma is whether or not that employee should have some right to his or her unvested shares.

Companies can squash any right the employee might have to unvested shares by contracting accordingly. Provisions in the share agreements or long term incentive plans, if they are sufficiently clear, can restrict the rights of the employee to unvested shares no matter if the employee is terminated for cause or without cause. Think of the following scenario:

Your employment is going extremely well. You've just received a promotion and your performance reviews are great. You're then terminated without cause. You're terminated in August. Before being terminated, you held 500 unvested shares in the company valued at $400.00 a share. Based on your vesting schedule, 50% of those shares were to vest in October that same year.

The shareholder's agreement holds that all unvested shares once terminated, notwithstanding cause, would be forfeited immediately. Remember you did nothing to merit your termination. Notwithstanding, your company has terminated you. Had they kept you for another two months, you would have had access to $100,000 worth of shares on top of your current income.

This does happen and, with the rise in e-commerce and proficiency in which new companies make public offerings, courts are now seeing a rise in cases where these types of employee shareholder agreements are in dispute.

The Ontario Court of Appeal (ONCA) has recently addressed a similar scenario in O'Reilly v. IMAX Corporation, 2019 ONCA 991. O'Reilly brought a wrongful termination claim alleging that he was not provided sufficient notice and that his unvested shares were unlawfully forfeited. On a summary judgement motion, O'Reilly was awarded 24 months' reasonable notice. The main issue before the ONCA was whether or not the motions judge was correct in awarding damages for shares that would have vested during the notice period.

The ONCA looked closely at the relevant provisions within the employer's long-term incentive plan and stock option grants. The following provision was highlighted:

(5) Termination of Employment Generally. In the event that the Participant’s employment with the Company terminates for any reason other than death, Disability or for Cause, the Options shall cease to vest, any unvested Options shall immediately be cancelled and revert back to the Company for no consideration and the Participant shall have no further right or interest therein. Any vested Options shall continue to be exercisable for a period of thirty (30) days following the date of such termination; … To the extent that any vested Options are not exercised within such period following termination of employment, such Options shall be cancelled and revert back to the Company for no consideration and the Participant shall have no further right or interest therein.

The Court set out to determine whether the words "terminates for any reason" included termination without cause. The ONCA emphasized the need for clarity in these types of provisions. It agreed with the motion judge "that the reference to terminates for any reason in the plans could not be presumed to refer to termination without cause."

O'Reilly was awarded the entirety of his shares throughout his notice period, valued at what they would have been had he sold them immediately upon vesting. O'Reilly had upwards of 30,000 shares valued between $20-$30 that would have vested during the 24 months' notice. The motion judge's decision on the unvested shares and the ONCA's subsequent dismissal made a difference of upwards of half a million dollars in the overall damages awarded to O'Reilly.


FOR EMPLOYEES: Do not walk away from your unvested shares without consulting an employment Lawyer. You could be leaving significant entitlements on the table.

FOR EMPLOYERS: Any attempt to limit the common law entitlements of an employee should be clear and unequivocal. Do not assume that general language, meant to encompass all, is sufficient to address one specific scenario. It is best to identify the entitlement within the provision and address it accordingly. Contracts must be drafted with specific consideration to the employer, their employees and the market. Boilerplate contracts leave unintended openings to employees and may significantly hamper the economic status of a company when it attempts to restructure and terminate employees.


O'Reilly v. IMAX Corporation, 2019 ONCA 991.

O’Reilly v. Imax Corporation, 2019 ONSC 342.

Veer v. Dover Corporation (Canada), 1999 CanLII 3008 (ON CA)

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Somatic Symptom Disorder - What it is and how can you prove it?

Somatic Symptom Disorder - What is it and how can we prove it?

The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) recently crystallised the importance of considering how psychiatric injuries accompany physical ones. In Saadati v. Moorhead, Saadati was in a car accident and suffered psychological and emotional trauma. He was awarded damages for mental injury based on the evidence of a lay witness who explained that Saadati’s personality changed post-accident. Expert evidence was not necessary, and the award did not need an attached “recognizable psychiatric illness.” The court found that requiring mental injury to pass the threshold of medical-expert testimony showing a “recognizable psychiatric illness,” while not requiring the same “classificatory label” of physical injury, would amount to unequal protection for those with a mental injury.

This SCC decision confirmed that the law of negligence accords identical treatment to mental and physical injury. This is a decision that is often looked at, as of late, with an overwhelming increase in the diagnosis of somatic symptom disorder (SSD). In dealing with my fair share of personal injury cases, I’ve started to notice this increase. The criteria for the illness remain broad, and like so many other cognitive/psychological conditions, it tends to be met with quite a bit of push back from defendants.

The DSM-5 characterises the condition as follows:

“SSD is characterised by somatic symptoms that are either very distressing or result in significant disruption of functioning, as well as excessive and disproportionate thoughts, feelings and behaviours regarding those symptoms. To be diagnosed with SSD, the individual must be persistently symptomatic (typically at least for 6 months).”

I tend to see this diagnosis when clients are suffering from longstanding subjective physical symptoms. The client is in extreme physical distress, but there’s no explanation of where this additional distress comes from. The pain felt by the client is otherwise disproportionate to the actual seriousness of the injury. I’ve always viewed it as an uncontrollable dispute between the body and the mind. I say this because typically the body is ready to be healed but the mind isn’t.

The proof isn’t as solid as we wish it was. The driving force of the diagnosis is the client’s own reaction to assessment and medical investigation. An SSD case can often be met by an assumption of “fake” injuries or plaintiff malingering. However, the SCC worded it properly when stating that the trier of fact should “not [be] concerned with the diagnosis, but with symptoms and their effects.” This point should always be emphasised when dealing with SSD cases. Focusing on the genuine statement of lay witnesses and providing a clear historical approach of the impact caused by the negligent act, remains the best means to put forward a strong SSD case.

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Personal Injury - What steps can you take to protect yourself?

What should I do if I am injured and someone else is responsible?

As a litigation Lawyer, I am often retained weeks, months or even years after a client has suffered an injury as a result of another’s negligence. Ideally, if you are injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, you should contact a Lawyer promptly to review the circumstances of the incident. I routinely meet people for a no obligation consultation to discuss matters such as liability, limitation periods and evidence that must be preserved.

At the scene of the accident, you should take several steps immediately, whether it is a motor-vehicle accident or a slip and fall, a dog bite or injury caused by a defective product:

  1. Identify who is responsible (i.e. exchange of information). If possible, take photographs of obvious material damage (in the case of a motor vehicle collision, take photos of the other party’s car as well as your own);
  1. Record via photographs or notes how the incident occurred (e.g. slip fall on uneven pavement); and
  1. Identify and obtain contact information of any witnesses to the incident – this is crucial, as witnesses can be lost forever if not identified at the scene.

As a Lawyer representing injured people, I have found that taking these easy steps can be the difference between having a long drawn out fight about legal liability and moving to a meaningful discussion about compensation reasonably quickly.

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Duty to Accommodate – Where do employers draw the line?

Duty to accommodate – Where do employers draw the line?

‍Employers should do what they can to accommodate their employee’s disability, but there’s a line to be drawn between accommodation and frustration of the employment contract. If the contract is in fact “frustrated”, the employer can end the employment relationship without violating the Human Rights Code (Code). The question is whether the employer suffers undue hardship.

Section 11 of the Code allows the employer to show that a requirement, qualification or factor that results in discrimination is nevertheless reasonable and bona fide (legitimate). However, to do this, the employer must show that the needs of the person cannot be accommodated without undue hardship.

The duty to accommodate has both procedural and substantive obligations. The procedural component requires that the employer take steps to understand the employee’s disability-related needs and undertake an individualized investigation of potential accommodation measures to address those needs.  The employer bears the onus of demonstrating what considerations, assessments and steps were undertaken to accommodate the employee to the point of undue hardship. The purpose of the duty to accommodate in an employment context is to ensure that an employee with a disability could continue to perform the essential duties of his or her employment if his or her needs can be accommodated without causing undue hardship to the employer.

The test for undue hardship is not total unfitness for work in the foreseeable future. If the characteristics of a disability are such that the proper operation of the business is hampered excessively or if an employee with such a disability remains unable to work for the reasonably foreseeable future even though the employer has tried to accommodate him or her, the employer will have satisfied the test. The duty to accommodate is compatible with general labour law rules, including both the rule that employers must respect employees' fundamental rights and the rule that employees must do their work. The employer's duty to accommodate ends where the employee is no longer able to fulfill the basic obligations associated with the employment relationship for the foreseeable future.

In Nason v. Thunder Bay Orthopaedic Inc. the employee was terminated while on unpaid medical leave. The trial judge awarded damages for wrongful dismissal. The Court of Appeal ruled that the employer’s decision to put the employee on an unpaid leave of absence was not an infringement of his rights, at that time, since the employer had already attempted to accommodate the employee. The employee could not fulfill the basic obligations of his position, despite the accommodations he received.  However, the Court rejected the employer’s argument that the employment contract had been frustrated.

The onus to prove that the contract was frustrated was on the employer. The employer believed that the employee’s limitations were permanent. However, the employer did not seek medical information to sufficiently explore and conclude whether there was no reasonable likelihood that the employee could be returned to work with accommodations in the future.

The employer must assure that the tasks required of the employee are actually necessary to meet the employer’s goals. If the employee could continue his/her employment while avoiding such tasks and while still achieving the employer’s requested goal, there is no undue hardship. The test was set out by the Supreme Court of Canada. To establish a bona fide occupational requirement, the employer must prove that the requirement:

  1. was adopted for a purpose or goal that is rationally connected to the function being performed (such as a job, being a tenant, or participating in the service);
  2. was adopted in good faith, in the belief that it is necessary for the fulfilment of the purpose or goal; and
  3. is reasonably necessary to accomplish its purpose or goal, in the sense that it is impossible to accommodate the claimant without undue hardship.

What does this mean for Employers?

Employers should err on the side of caution and seek counsel prior to claiming frustration of the employment agreement. If it’s done prematurely, the employer could be subject to a wrongful termination claim, giving rise to common law reasonable notice or a claim for discrimination pursuant to the Code. Employers should also run an individual investigation into the employee’s limitations. It’s one thing to say that the employee cannot meet the demands of the job regardless of available accommodations. The employer must prove it by way of a proper and full investigation into the employee’s limitations. Prior to claiming frustration of the contract, the employer should consider the following:

  • whether it investigated alternative approaches that do not have a discriminatory effect;
  • reasons why viable alternatives, if any, can’t be put in place;
  • whether it can meet the legitimate objectives in a less discriminatory way;
  • whether the job requirement is properly designed to make sure the desired qualification is met without placing an undue burden on the people it applies to; and
  • whether other parties who are obliged to assist in the search for accommodation have fulfilled their roles.


British Columbia (Public Service Employee Relations Commission) v. BCGSEU, [1999] 3 S.C.R. 3.

Ellis v. General Motors of Canada Ltd., 2011 HRTO 1453.

Nason v Thunder Bay Orthopaedic Inc, 2015 ONSC 8097, [2015] OJ No 6892.

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I was a cyclist hit in a car accident. What are my rights?

I was a cyclist involved in a car accident. What are my rights?

In short, the same as those of a driver or passenger. Liability may be handled differently, but the cyclist maintains a right to claim against the at-fault driver and seek benefits from the applicable insurer. Your car insurance is meant to provide accident benefits if you're involved in a car accident. It does not matter whether you were actually driving a car. As long as you have car insurance, your accident benefits should kick in. If you don't have car insurance, the at-fault driver's insurance will provide accident benefits. Either way, you should be covered by a policy. If neither of you has insurance, there's still the motor vehicle accident fund which acts as a safety net in cases where insurance is not available.

Typically, there's an assumption that the cyclist was not at fault. This does not mean you can pedal around with no regard to surrounding traffic. You still have to be diligent and you still owe yourself an obligation to proceed with reason. Any contribution found on your behalf will reduce the value of your claim. You can be deemed contributorily negligent if you don't wear the proper protective gear, or if you don't abide by the rules of the road.

Seasonal changes in traffic will often give rise to increases in car accidents involving cyclist. A good portion of the driving population does not properly adapt to these changes. This causes drivers to make assumptions they shouldn't make: disregarding their blind spot, failing to keep track of cyclist in the bike lane, opening their doors without thinking of oncoming cyclist. Unfortunately, the injuries are often devastating. Even with protective gear, the force of direct impact may leave the cyclist with serious, life-changing and permanent injuries.

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What if I or the other driver don't have insurance?

What if I or the other driver don't have insurance?

Answer: Ontario's auto insurers provide accident benefits and liability insurance. The accident benefits claim and the tort claim both work together toward covering your losses stemming from the accident. So, what happens when one of the parties involved doesn't have insurance? I've listed the most common scenarios:

A rear-ends B. A doesn't have insurance. B does have insurance:

The standard Ontario insurance policy includes coverage in-case the at-fault party is uninsured or underinsured. B's insurer would be on the hook for the accident benefits and the damages caused by the at-fault party as well (tort claim).

A strikes B (a cyclist). A has insurance. B doesn't have insurance:

In this case, it's up to A's insurer to provide both accident benefits in addition to compensation for the damages caused by A.

A is a pedestrian struck by driver B. A is injured. Neither A nor B have insurance:

In this circumstance, plaintiffs turn to the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund. The fund may provide:

  • Accident benefits
  • Death and funeral benefits
  • Compensation for personal injury or property damage (except for vehicles)

Although the fund does not work exactly like an insurer, it does provide a safety net for injured parties with no accessible insurance policy.


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How do personal injury lawyers get paid?

What does "no fee unless you win" actually mean and how do most personal injury Lawyers get paid?

Answer: Taken literally and with knowledge of what goes into every account "no win, no fee" is a legitimate statement. That means: Yes, the Lawyer will not get a fee if you don't receive compensation. However, in addition to fees, there are also costs and disbursements.

Costs represent the defendant's legal costs that are due if you get an adverse judgment. These fall on your shoulders and not your Lawyers. Costs insurance can be available in some cases and should be explored in your initial meetings (the earlier you get it, the cheaper it is).

Disbursements are the funds paid upfront by your Lawyer to carry your file. They include things like photocopying, mail/postage, travel costs, filing costs and medical-legal assessments. A Lawyer can run up disbursements in the thousands and if successful, the defendant will pay the value of your claim plus these disbursements. However, if you're unsuccessful, these disbursements are typically due and owed by you. Meaning, if you don't "win" you owe the Lawyer what was spent to carry your file. Unpaid disbursements may also be covered through your costs’ insurance.

Most personal injury Lawyers work off contingency, meaning that they are compensated based on the result. They take a percentage of your settlement. That percentage is typically 30-35% depending on the Lawyer.

The fee isn't as simple as just taking a percentage of the overall settlement. It must be broken down in accordance with what a Lawyer is legally able to take. For instance, they cannot take more than the client receives. They cannot take "costs" which amount to about 15% of the value of your claim and are used to counterbalance your contingency fee.

Here's how it might play out:

Let's say the value of your claim is $100,000. In addition to the value of your claim, the defendant will have to cover disbursements (what was paid to run your file) and costs. A typical settlement could be broken down as follows:

  • value of claim: $100,000
  • disbursements: $15,000 (including HST)
  • costs: $12,319.37
  • DEFENDANT'S PAYMENT: $127,319.37

The Lawyer's fee is taken out of the value of the claim and not the defendant's entire payment. So if the contingency is set at 30%, the Lawyer's fee in the above example would be $30,000 + H.S.T.. The Lawyer will take the disbursements as well to cover the funds he or she spent on the file. You're left with the remainder. Here's how it works using the above example:

  • defendant's payment: $127,319.37
  • disbursements: (-) $15,000 (including HST)
  • legal fee: (-) $30,000
  • HST on legal fee: (-) $3,900
  • IN YOUR POCKET: $78,416.37  

The exact calculation used could change depending on the facts of each case. As a note, claims are typically subject to pre and post-judgment interest at a variable rate. This will be added to the defendant’s payment.

Need a Personal Injury Lawyer? Reach out to a licensed professional today!

What is "just cause" in employment law?

Last month local newspapers reported the case of a McDonald’s employee in Kanata who was dismissed after receiving poor performance reviews. The employee received more than $100,000.00 in court. Why?

The short answer is that the judge in this case found that although the employee’s performance was not perfect the employer did not have “just cause” to terminate her employment contract. If a business chooses to dismiss an employee the employer has to first decide if they have just cause to end the contract or not. Just cause exists when an employee has committed a serious breach of contract such as theft or continually missing work without reason. If the employer does not have just cause then in most cases they have to provide compensation which can equal up to a month of salary for every year of the employee’s service.

Many employers have staff who they believe are poor performers. Performance reviews are often done to encourage better performance but may also be an attempt to build a case for a just cause dismissal. After several poor performance reviews an employer may choose to dismiss an employee for just cause. However, a decision to terminate an employee for just cause can be challenged in court where employers often find it difficult to prove that the alleged breach of contract was serious enough to warrant a just cause dismissal. Poor performance reviews may show that an employee was less than perfect but this alone is usually not enough to disentitle them to some compensation when they are dismissed. Because compensation is typically based on the number of years the employee has worked, the amount owing to dismissed employee can be significant which is what occurred in the case of the former McDonald’s employee.

What is the auto accident lawsuit time limitation in Ottawa?

I was injured in a car accident which was not my fault more than 3 years ago. I have just learned that as a result of my injuries I will need surgery and may never be able to work again. Before learning this from my doctor I had believed my injuries were not that serious and I would fully recover. Can I sue the driver that hit me?

Limitations and their exceptions

That is a complicated question. Generally speaking, although there are exceptions, you may commence an action for damages in Ontario anytime up to 2 years after an event, or after you reasonably learned of the consequences of an event. If you know of the consequences of an event where you suffered injuries or losses, you generally lose your right to sue as of the second anniversary of the loss.

There are various exceptions to this rule. Recently, the Ontario Government has abolished limitation periods for victims of sexual assault.

Furthermore, limitations generally don’t apply to people under a legal disability, and that includes minors (people under the age of 18).There is also a legal doctrine of discoverability. Discoverability provides that a limitation period does not begin to run against a person until that person knew or ought to have known of a loss, and in some cases the extent or seriousness of a loss can be an issue.

What should you do?

The first thing you should do is get legal advice from a Lawyer as soon as you become aware that something has happened. There are other shorter limitation periods including notice periods which can be just a few days, arising in some circumstances. A Lawyer can give you advice and help you pursue your rights as appropriate.

Secondly, even if you think too much time has gone by, you should consult with a Lawyer. If circumstances provide an exception to the usual limitation periods, a Lawyer will be able to advise you of this fact and advocate on your behalf.

All cases are specific to their facts and the above information should not be relied upon to determine rights in particular circumstances. Lawyers often provide no obligation free and confidential consultations to prospective clients. So it is a good idea to seek out legal advice from a Lawyer if you have any doubt or questions about your rights.

When can my insurer review my entitlements to disability benefits?

I have a chronic medical condition which unfortunately has become worse over time. For the last two years I have been receiving benefits through my employer’s disability insurance plan. Recently, the insurer wrote to advise me that the terms of the policy have changed and that they now require additional medical information - why is this happening and am I at risk of losing my benefits?

Most disability insurance policies provided by employers have different coverage for different periods of time. For the first two years of an employee’s disability benefits are generally provided on the basis that you cannot perform the essential duties of your existing occupation. The definition of disability changes after two years in most policies.

One of the first steps in your case is to obtain a copy of the policy from your employer. This policy will usually include a brief description of the criteria that an employee must meet to be entitled to disability benefits. In the vast majority of cases after two years of paying benefits policies will limit an employee’s entitlement to further benefits unless the employee is unable to work in any occupation to which they are reasonably suited.

Because of this change to the disability definition, insurance companies will generally review files and seek additional medical information if someone has been receiving benefits for two years. However, Ontario courts have recognized that whether an individual is able to perform any occupation depends not only on their particular disability, but also their basic skill set and educational background. In many cases insurers won’t cut off benefits once they have completed their review and have received additional medical information. However, if you and your insurer disagree about whether you are capable of returning to the workforce it may be time to contact a Lawyer.

I was injured on the job. Should I claim workplace insurance vs. my right to sue?

I was injured in a car accident while driving to drop off a package for my employer—I almost never drive as part of my job.  I work in an office as a clerk.  The other driver was charged.  Now I am off work and need physiotherapy.  My doctor says I may have a permanent injury to my back. I have received a Notice from the Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) requesting that I elect whether or not I want to receive benefits.

Can I sue the other driver and receive benefits?

No. In Ontario injured workers who receive WSIB benefits forego their right to sue on their own behalf.  You may choose to elect not to receive benefits and preserve your right to sue a third party in some limited circumstances.   In Ontario, employees who are insured under the Workplace Safety Insurance Act scheme are not permitted to sue their own employer for injuries sustained while working.  Depending on the nature of your job, you may not be able to sue another worker or employer either.

However, if you are injured in a vehicle collision and the responsible driver is not a worker as defined in the Act then you may elect whether or not you wish to receive WSIB benefits or pursue the at fault driver. That is a complicated decision.

Generally speaking, the more serious the injuries you have sustained the more likely you will be better off foregoing WSIB benefits and pursuing the at fault driver.  However, if there are questions about liability (if you are wholly or partially at fault), or if there is a question about your ability to successfully recover damages in a tort action the WSIB scheme may be the best option for you.

Deciding whether or not to elect to receive WSIB benefits is complicated, and best made with the assistance of a Lawyer with experience in such matters.  Experienced Lawyers are available to consult with you, often without obligation to you.

I've been charged with a crime and want to know what happens next?

Under Canadian law, you can be charged under a number of statutes. For example, prosecutions are commonly brought under the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, and the Provincial Offences Act.

Contacting a Lawyer for advice. In most cases, after you are charged, you will be released under a recognizance or a promise to appear in court. To ensure that you get all the information necessary to later argue your case, it is best to consult with a Lawyer at this early point in the criminal process.

Many Lawyers are available for free initial consultations, where they generally give overviews of the criminal procedures involved, as well as other valuable preliminary advice.

At Allan Snelling LLP, we regularly provide advice to people charged with criminal offences. Our firm partner Patrick Snelling has more than 18 years of experience representing people facing serious charges, and he and his team of dedicated associates are prepared to meet with people charged with offences and provide them with an initial consultations without obligation.

Arrangements for initial consultations may be made by calling our general information line at (613) 270-8600 ext. 0.

Disclaimer The information on this site is not intended to be legal advice. If you wish to obtain legal advice from Allan Snelling LLP with respect to a criminal or quasi-criminal charge, please contact Patrick Snelling directly at (613) 270-8600 ext. 225.

Slip and Falls - Should you take the insurance company's offer to settle?

Three weeks ago I was at a retail store and tripped over winter matting near the entrance.  I fell and broke my wrist.  Today an Insurance adjuster called me.  He said I was responsible to look where I was walking but he offered me $5000.00 to help me out as I have been off work.  I am on sick leave and have not lost any income.  Is there any reason not to just take the money?

Plenty of Reason.  Leaving aside what happened, and what you might be entitled to recover as a result of your injuries, it is always a good idea to consult with a Lawyer before taking a settlement proposed by an insurance company.   Insurance adjusters work for Insurance companies and they do not approach a settlement based on what you are entitled to.  They offer money based on the risk of what you might receive by way of an award.  Generally, they will try and settle a claim or potential claim for as little as they reasonable can in order to close off a risk.

A Lawyer will work for you. Many Lawyers offer a free consultation.  I find I ask a lot of questions and do a lot of listening during a consultation.  I try to give my client an understanding of the legal issues arising in their circumstances, and what the options are going forward.

Assert your rights. Over the years I have come to understand that people almost always benefit from at least consulting with a Lawyer before trying to settle with an insurance company.    There is a significant imbalance between a lone individual and a huge insurance company.  A Lawyer has the knowledge to help level the playing field.  In my experience insurers will see a greater risk when dealing with an injured person who is represented by a Lawyer.  Greater risk to insurers leads to better settlements.

Why work with a law firm?

If asked to describe a law firm one might say it’s a group of Lawyers and support staff working in an office. That is certainly true. But a law firm is bigger than the sum of its parts...

Take Allan Snelling LLP. We are a community law firm. That means we provide a full range of legal services to meet the needs of the people and businesses of West Ottawa. We have eight Lawyers with diverse practices who team up with a dedicated staff of paralegals and law clerks. Our clients unite the firm and provide our identity. Many come to us for assistance with the purchase of a home or to obtain a will (which every adult need’s, more so when you have kids…but that is for another day). Later they may retain us to assert their rights in a dispute. Perhaps they have been injured, are having difficulty with an insurer or with their employer. Still other clients seek our assistance to help their business thrive, through incorporation, financing or negotiation and drafting of agreements. All of these services are available at Allan Snelling LLP.

Hand in hand with our dedication to providing quality legal work is our commitment to knowing our clients. After an engagement is concluded we do not simply close the file and move on. We retain our knowledge of the client and their circumstances. So if in the future they are confronted with a personal or business situation, we are able to direct them to the Lawyer most suited to advise of their options and provide for their needs. It is a measure of our firm’s success that we have been trusted to provide legal services to many of our clients on an ongoing basis.

So, why work with a law firm?

Because a good law firm will ensure the collective experience and skills of its people are leveraged to the advantage of its clients. As a client you should accept no less.

Should I waive my right to a home inspection?

We placed an offer on a house, which was accepted by the sellers. The agreement is conditional upon a satisfactory home inspection. The house was built only a few years ago and we are considering waiving our right to a home inspection. If we do, what rights do we have if we discover some deficiencies in the house after the closing date? Should I wave my right to a home inspection?

Buyer Beware

The law in Ontario is pretty clear: “let the buyer beware”. Unless there is a fraud, misrepresentation or mistake made by the seller, the buyer takes the existing property as he finds it. Therefore, most of the time the buyer can’t make a claim against the seller for any deficiencies discovered after closing. The general rule is that there is no obligation to disclose any defects that the seller is aware of. The only exceptions to this rule are serious hidden defects. Hidden defects are those that are not discoverable by a reasonable inspection. Further, such defects have to be serious enough to either affect the integrity of the house or render the house unfit for human habitation. Hidden defects are also those defects that the seller is trying to conceal.

Representations and Warranties

The sellers of residential real estate in Ontario are not obliged to provide any representations or warranties to the buyer.

The standard Agreement of Purchase and Sale for a resale home used by real estate agents does not contain any warranties in regards to the physical condition of real estate property, except for a very limited warranty related to ureaformeldahyde insulation. The buyer might try to negotiate warranties into the agreement of purchase and sale, however this is very rare.

Home Inspection

A proper home inspection performed by an experienced home inspector is the best way to protect you from any unpleasant surprises. While a home inspector might not be able to identify all defects, especially hidden ones, it is the only way to learn what you are buying and to make an informed decision about one of the most important purchases of your lifetime.

Do I need a will?

We have been married for the last 25 years but don’t have any children. Do we need a will, or would everything just go to the surviving spouse anyway?

Yes, you do need a will. Whenever you don’t have any children, under the statutory distribution scheme for individuals that die without a will, your spouse would receive your entire estate. However, you should still have a will for at least two reasons:

  1. Appointing an executor of your estate; and
  2. Making instructions for the distribution of your estate in the event that you’re predeceased by your spouse.

Appointment of an executor of your estate.

The executor named in a will has the legal authority to take possession of all your assets, do your final income tax returns, and deal with banks and government institutions. If you don’t have a will, a court would have to appoint an executor of your estate to deal with any assets that were not jointly owned, as well as any registered investments that did not have a named beneficiary. The process of appointing an executor usually takes few months, so in addition to incurring unnecessary costs, there will be an extended delay during which your spouse will not have access to the assets in your estate. In my experience, some financial institutions will waive a probate requirement if your spouse is the named executor and the only beneficiary of your estate, which could provide your spouse with ready access to some assets shortly after your death.

‍Distribution of your estate if you survive your spouse.

By having a will in place, you will make sure that your estate is distributed the way you want it to be in the event that your spouse passes away shortly before you, or in the event that you are unable to make a will after your spouse’s death.  Under the statutory distribution scheme, if you don’t have a spouse nor children, your estate would go to your parents. Alternatively, if your parents are deceased, your estate would go to your siblings. This may not be your wish. For example you might want to leave part of your estate to your spouse’s family, or you may wish to skip your parents and siblings and distribute the estate among your and your spouse’s nieces and nephews, or make gifts to a charity or charities. No matter which option you choose, having a will can provide the peace of mind of knowing that your estate will be distributed according to your wishes.

Should I co-own property?

We are buying our first home. The bank insists that we add my father as a co-owner of the home since in order to qualify for the mortgage amount that we need to include both incomes. The entire down payment is coming from our savings and we will be making all the mortgage payments. I really don’t want to include my father. What are your suggestions?

Guarantor of the mortgage v. being registered on title as owner

Adding a person that is not going to be living at the property as a co-owner is generally not recommended, unless you are buying an investment property. You should talk to your bank whether it would be sufficient to have your father as a guarantor on the mortgage, rather than a co-owner.

If the bank still insists on your father’s ownership, there are ways to structure the co-ownership in order to protect everyone’s interest and to minimize your father’s exposure to any tax related consequences of owning a second home.

Joint Tenancy and Tenancy in Common

There are two ways how two or more individuals can own a real property together. They can either own it as joint tenants or as tenants in common. The main difference between the two is that people who own a property as joint tenants have a right of survivorship, meaning that if either one of them dies, his or her ownership share passes automatically to the other surviving joint tenants. This is in contrast with tenancy in common, which does not have a right of survivorship, meaning that the share of the deceased tenant in common becomes part of such person’s estates. With tenancy in common you can also specify a size of a share that each co-owner owns. For example, your father can own 1% share of the home and you and your spouse remaining 99% share, with all of you owning the home as tenants in common, to make sure that your and your spouse’s share becomes part of your estate rather than transferring to your father in case something happens to both of you.

Do I need a lawyer to get a will and powers of attorney?

Your last will does not have to be drafted or signed by a Lawyer. However, a will is a legal document that will determine who will have control of your estate and how it is going to be distributed. There are certain legal requirements that have to be met for the will to be valid. As such it is very important that your will is drafted, signed and witnessed properly.

How can a Lawyer help?

A Lawyer will ask you right questions to help you determine how to distribute your estate while taking into consideration various contingencies and scenarios that might be in place at the time of your passing. She will discuss with you legal clauses that you might want to include in your will, such as a beneficiary designation for your RRSP and insurance policies, expressing your wishes in regards to the custody of your minor children or confirming compensation for the executor. Your Lawyer will also talk to you about the powers that you want to give to your executor in addition to the powers he would have under current legal framework or limits that you want put on such powers. She will properly draft your will and will try to help you understand all the legal clauses and legalities contained in a will. Your Lawyer will also make sure that your new will revokes all your previous wills or other testamentary documents. Most importantly, your Lawyer will also make sure that your will is properly signed and witnessed.

Your last will is an important legal document and you should retain a professional to help you with its preparation and execution. Seeking and using such help will give you peace of mind knowing that your affairs are in order and make sure that your will reflects all your wishes.

Why do you need a real estate lawyer?

A lot of people wrestle with the idea of whether they need a real estate Lawyer to handle small real estate transactions. They are unsure if they should hire a real estate law firm Kanata property buyers have hired to help them. The answer is always going to be yes when it comes to hiring a real estate Lawyer to navigate any type of real property transactions.

A good real estate Lawyer is on your side, that means they are looking out for your best interest and will ensure that your interests are protected. Real estate law firms specialize in real property law and deliver the support that you need.

When Do You Need to Consult With a Lawyer?

A lot of times buyers will just let the sellers’ Lawyer manage the real estate transaction, unfortunately, this can be a mistake. Whether you are buying or selling, you want to have your own real estate Lawyer on your side.

You want to be sure that you are getting the support that you need to make an informed decision about your real estate transactions and the only way to do that is by hiring an expert in real estate law. You need a real estate Lawyer when:

  • You are buying residential property, commercial property, or land
  • You are selling residential property, commercial property, or land
  • You are ready to sign a contract for the purchase or sale of property (before you sign)

Having the trusted advice of a real estate law firm Ottawa residents have gotten support from can ensure that you are making informed decisions about your transactions. The ideal time to hire a real estate Lawyer is before you sign the purchase contract.

Knowing exactly what you are agreeing to gives you the power to go into the situation with your eyes wide open. A Lawyer that specializes in real estate will review your contract, provide feedback, and help you negotiate the best deal.

Protect Yourself

It is important that you have an Lawyer on your side for any type of real estate transaction no matter how small or large. Protecting your interests should be a priority for you and an Lawyer can do that.

Get the legal support that you need to have the peace of mind that you want.

Acquisition of a Business - Do such contracts affect the decision to acquire shares or assets?

I am considering the acquisition of a business. Long term contracts between the business and third parties are important to the business. Do such contracts affect the decision to acquire shares or assets of the business?

There are a number of factors to be taken into account when purchasing an existing business including tax, liability, due diligence and employee matters. Your question relates to the contracts between the business and third parties. These contracts may include rights obtained by the business necessary to carry on the business, such as licenses or franchises, or the benefit of sale or service agreements for the supply of products or services that generate revenue for the business.

A fundamental difference between an asset purchase and a share purchase is that in an asset sale the contracts must be assigned (along with the transfer of assets) while in a share sale the contracts remain intact (since only the shares of the business itself are transferred).A comprehensive review of all important contracts is advisable as early as possible during the due diligence process to determine rights and obligations. If third party consents are required, consideration must be given as to the risk that such consents may not be available in a timely manner, or at all, and whether the transaction may be better structured to avoid the necessity for assignment. In some less common circumstances there is an outright bar to assignment and consents cannot be obtained (this is the case in some government procurements). The acquisition of the business in such circumstances may only be achieved through a share sale to avoid termination of such contract(s). It should also be noted that some contracts contain provisions that deem a change of control from a sale of shares to be equivalent to assignment, and triggering the necessity for third party consent.

Dementia - What to do with regards to her will and powers of attorney?

My elderly mother was diagnosed with dementia a few months ago. She is rapidly deteriorating. She does not have signed powers of attorney documents. I have three other siblings. We need to sell her house and get access to her finances to pay her bills. What do we have to do?

Lawyer under power of attorney

Depending on your mother’s current mental capacity she might still be able to appoint an Lawyer under power of attorney for property or personal care. In order to determine whether you mother still has a mental capacity to execute power of attorney documents she will have to undergo a capacity assessment performed by a specially trained health care professional. If the capacity assessment finds that your mother has capacity to appoint an Lawyer under powers of attorney, she can visit a Lawyer to help her prepare and sign powers of attorney documents.


If your mother does not have the mental capacity to appoint an Lawyer, you and your siblings can apply to be appointed Guardians of Property for your mother. There are two ways this can be achieved: by applying to the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee or making an application to the Court. The less costly and simpler way is to apply to the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee. The process of applying and the application forms can be found on their website. In order to be able to apply to the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee, you and your siblings would have to agree on whom to appoint as Guardian. In the event you and your siblings cannot agree on the appointment, someone will have to apply to the Court to be appointed Guardian for your mother.

Should I incorporate my medical practice as a professional corporation?

I am a practicing family physician with two young children. My accountant mentioned the idea of incorporating my practice into a professional corporation. How does this work?

As a physician, you are generally permitted to create a physician corporation. The Ontario Business Corporations Act (OBCA) and the Regulated Health Professions Act govern physician corporations. Once incorporated, a Certificate of Authorization from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) is required for your professional corporation to practice medicine in Ontario.

There may be significant benefits to incorporation arising from income splitting through the payment of dividends to adult shareholders and the deferral of tax through retention of excess cash and investing in the corporation.

A professional corporation carries on the practice of medicine with you as both a shareholder and employee of your corporation. It is important to note that under the provisions of the OBCA, a professional corporation does not shield the shareholders from professional liability as acts of a professional corporation are deemed to be acts of the shareholders. Non-voting shareholders who are not members of the CPSO are exempted from any professional liability.

All voting shares of the corporation must be held by a member of the CPSO. Non-voting shares can be held by a parent, spouse or child (and minor children must have their shares held in trust). Professional corporations are only permitted to carry on the practice of the profession or activities that are related to or ancillary to the profession. Furthermore, a professional corporation is permitted to invest its surplus funds in passive investments.

A Lawyer with experience in incorporating professionals can help you set up your professional corporation such that your objectives may be realized.

What is the Ontario land transfer tax?

I want to transfer my house to my son. Do we have to pay Land Transfer Tax on such a transfer?

As long as there is no consideration passing between you and your son, and the transfer is a gift to your son, there is no Land Transfer Tax payable.

What is Land Transfer Tax?

Land Transfer Tax is a tax levied by the Ontario government on every transfer of property, subject to some exemptions. The Land Transfer Tax is paid by a person acquiring the property at the time of a transfer. The amount of the Land Transfer Tax is based on consideration passing between a person disposing of property and a person acquiring it. Therefore virtually all purchases of real estate are subject to Land Transfer Tax.

Exemptions to Land Transfer Tax

The Land Transfer Tax is not payable when real estate property being transferred is a gift and there is no consideration passing between the parties. Assumption of an existing mortgage by person acquiring the property or giving a personal loan by person disposing of property to the person acquiring it is a form of consideration and therefore such a transfer would be subject to the Land Transfer Tax.

Transfer of property between married spouses pursuant to a separation agreement is also exempt from the Land Transfer Tax, regardless of the type and amount of consideration passing between the parties. There are some other exemptions under the Land Transfer Tax Act such as transfers involving trusts, transfers to a charity or transfers to a government organization.

First Time Home Buyer’s Rebate

First time home buyers may qualify for a Land Transfer Tax rebate of $2,000 if they have never owned a real estate property anywhere in the world. Further, a spouse of a first time home buyer cannot own any real estate at the time of purchase and must have disposed of previously owned property prior to becoming a spouse of a first time home buyer.

Should you buy a business as an asset purchase?

I am negotiating to purchase a business and my business advisor has strongly suggested I structure the deal as an “asset purchase”. Why is this preferable?

There are two principal ways to structure the agreement of purchase and sale of a business: as an asset purchase or as a share purchase. An asset purchase is just that, a purchase of listed assets without taking on liabilities of the business. A share purchase, by contrast, is the purchase of the shares of the corporation that carries on the business and owns the assets. There are a number of considerations as to which form of purchase is preferable. In this article, we want to focus on why your advisor has strongly recommended an asset purchase.


A properly structured asset purchase agreement will allow you to purchase all of the desirable assets of the business you wish to acquire while leaving out the unwanted liabilities.

Your advisor has likely identified the business as one either by its nature or by the disclosure you’ve obtained in which there are significant potential liabilities that may be avoided through an asset purchase agreement. For example, if the owner of the business has been pocketing cash payments or using corporate assets for personal use, the business may be exposed to re-assessments and penalties by the Canada Revenue Agency. A purchase of shares would mean that you, through the purchased corporation, are exposed to those claims.


There are some exceptions to the avoidance of liability by an asset purchase. For instance, if the purchased business employed unionized labour, a collective agreement and any ongoing liabilities thereunder will follow the purchased business, even if structured as an asset purchase. Your legal counsel can assist you to identify and understand the relevant risks and how to avoid them where possible or otherwise obtain protection.

I'm married without children, do I need a will?

We have been married for the last 25 years but don’t have any children. Do we need a will, or would everything just go to the surviving spouse anyway?

Yes, you do need a will. Whenever you don’t have any children, under the statutory distribution scheme for individuals that die without a will, your spouse would receive your entire estate. However, you should still have a will for at least two reasons:

  1. Appointing an executor of your estate; and
  2. Making instructions for the distribution of your estate in the event that you’re predeceased by your spouse.

Appointment of an executor of your estate.

The executor named in a will has the legal authority to take possession of all your assets, do your final income tax returns, and deal with banks and government institutions. If you don’t have a will, a court would have to appoint an executor of your estate to deal with any assets that were not jointly owned, as well as any registered investments that did not have a named beneficiary. The process of appointing an executor usually takes few months, so in addition to incurring unnecessary costs, there will be an extended delay during which your spouse will not have access to the assets in your estate. In my experience, some financial institutions will waive a probate requirement if your spouse is the named executor and the only beneficiary of your estate, which could provide your spouse with ready access to some assets shortly after your death.

Distribution of your estate if you survive your spouse.

By having a will in place, you will make sure that your estate is distributed the way you want it to be in the event that your spouse passes away shortly before you, or in the event that you are unable to make a will after your spouse’s death.  Under the statutory distribution scheme, if you don’t have a spouse nor children, your estate would go to your parents. Alternatively, if your parents are deceased, your estate would go to your siblings. This may not be your wish. For example you might want to leave part of your estate to your spouse’s family, or you may wish to skip your parents and siblings and distribute the estate among your and your spouse’s nieces and nephews, or make gifts to a charity or charities. No matter which option you choose, having a will can provide the peace of mind of knowing that your estate will be distributed according to your wishes.

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