the real/estate blog

Have a coffee with your discussion of dying

Posted in End of Life Care,Estate Planning,Funeral planning by Cesia Green on July 9, 2013
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Have you ever heard of aCoffee shop death café?

Neither had I, until I read this article at the Globe and Mail last week. Basically, they are informal gatherings – sometimes at coffee shops, sometimes in people’s homes – where a small group can get together, enjoy tea and sweets, and discuss anything and everything related to death and dying. From having a green funeral, to fears about dying alone, to questions about organ donation. Nothing is off the table, and participants are able to have their questions answered in a non-judgemental and relaxed environment.

If you heard about a Death Café in your city, would you attend?


A road to nowhere

Posted in Real Estate by Cesia Green on July 5, 2013
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In 1985, Veikko KivikRoadangas subdivided a parcel of waterfront land he owned in Sudbury into three lots. One had direct road access; the others were given a right-of-way over each of the other pieces in order to access their lands. There had long been a gravel road over the properties, and Kivikangas instructed his surveyor to show the right-of-way in the same place as the gravel road. Unfortunately, the surveyor made an error and put the right-of-way over a rock outcrop; where it actually would have been on the ground would be unusable, making the two back pieces landlocked.

When this all came to light, naturally because of a neighbour dispute, the owners of the two back lots sued to have the right-of-way description legally changed to match what was on the ground. After a long court case, and an appeal, the court released its decision in February of this year and corrected the survey.

The decision was the right one to make, but the court made an unusual statement in coming to it: there is no guarantee of boundaries under the Land Titles System. When you buy a property, you buy something, but there is no guarantee that what is on the ground is actually what you thought you were buying. The lesson to take away is that surveys are once again very valuable; whether they come back into favour before the closing remains to be seen, but a new survey showing what is actually there to compare with what is on paper is the only way to be sure you are buying what you think you are.

Some thoughts for the not-quite-married

Posted in Estate Planning,Intestacy by Cesia Green on July 2, 2013
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Wedding aisleIn Canada, for the most part, there is little day-to-day difference between couples who are legally married and couples who are common law. You can get benefits at work, get a family membership at the gym, and generally live as if you are married. One significant difference, however, is in matters of estates law.

If you are not legally married, you are entitled to nothing from your spouse’s estate unless you are legally married or you have signed wills. Truly: nothing. You have no inheritance rights unless you are dependent on your spouse, in which case you have to sue your spouse’s estate to receive anything. (And even then you will not get the full estate, only what you would have been entitled to if you had separated the day before your partner’s death).

Common-law couples are a group who truly need to have estate planning documents in place. Society may not care whether you have walked down an aisle, but the Ontario government certainly does.

Happy long weekend!

Posted in Real Estate by Cesia Green on June 28, 2013
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The Canada DCanadian flag 2ay long weekend is rapidly approaching here in the great white north. I’m looking forward to a nice break, filled with the first birthday party for my friend’s son, at least one barbeque and definitely some fireworks on Monday night. What I’m not looking forward to is the increased amount of fraud attempts that will be directed at my law firm.

The Avoid a Claim Blog regularly reports on frauds targeted at lawyers. Because we have trust accounts, we are frequent targets of people trying to turn bad money into good. The most regular fraud targeted at real estate lawyers is that of a matter that must be dealt with in a hurry, right before a long weekend; this gives the fraudster an extra day to try to get away with the good money.

At the best of times, it’s not much fun to have a rush deal come in to your office. Before long weekends especially, don’t expect anyone to be willing to take it on.

Celebrity death match, round two

Posted in Celebrity Planning,Estate Planning by Cesia Green on June 25, 2013
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I have posted ofRed carpetten before on the fact that celebrities tend to make the same mistakes as the rest of us, just compounded by more money and more dependants (you can read posts here, here and here, for example). Sheyna Steiner has posted a new list of celebrity follies over at

From Leona Helmsley leaving money to her dog with no consideration given to her grandchildren, to quarterback Steve McNair who faced huge a tax burden from a lack of planning, to Jim Morrison whose estate ended up in the hands of his girlfriend’s parents rather than his own, it is clear that having great wealth does not lead to any greater likelihood of having estate planning documents in place.

Be better than the celebrities you follow. Do some planning.

When is a house a matrimonial home?

Posted in Real Estate by Cesia Green on June 21, 2013
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In Ontario, the Family Law Act rules state exactly when a home becomes a matrimonial home: the day you get married, if you are living there. In order to be a matrimonial home, it must be your ordinary residence. Your house could be a matrimonial home; so can your ski chalet or your cottage, as well as your winter home in Florida. Which one is at any given time will depend on what you consider it to be….as well as what your spouse thinks.

There are a whole hWedding ringsost of family law issues that come into play if you separate, but what I am writing about today is whether you need spousal consent to sell or mortgage your house. Even if you are the only one on title, if you have spent any time living there in the past year with your legally married spouse (this rule does not count for common law couples), your spouse may need to agree to anything happening with the house. So get that agreement in place before you list it.

Your family may have changed. Has your will?

Posted in Estate Planning,Intestacy by Cesia Green on June 18, 2013

Last week, I wrote about updating your will for your own benefit. Today, I want to talk about updating your will for the benefit of others.

Last month, Elizabeth O’Brien wrote this article on MarketWatch. She mentions a vast number of reasons why it can be disastrous to your family if you don’t keep things up-to-date, such as:

  • Stepchildren inheriting instead of biological children
  • Former spouses inheriting instead of children
  • Spouses of your children inheriting instead of grandchildren
  • Beneficiaries who are spendthrift or have addiction problems inheriting outright instead of through a trust

You owe it to yourself to keep your documents updated. You also owe it to your family.

Pay your taxes

Posted in Real Estate,Tax by Cesia Green on June 14, 2013
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Most people aren’t aware of this, but if you don’t pay your municipal property taxes, the city or town has the right to sell your house out from under you.

Keep in mind that justTaxes because they can, doesn’t mean they necessarily will. First, the municipality cannot start the process until the third year after the taxes are due (the second year in the case of vacant land). Second, after the process is started, you have a full year to repay the taxes owing, after which it is cleared and they cannot sell your home. The municipality can also extend that year, so you can effectively have a grace period before they start enforcement. However, if you don’t pay, they can put your house up in a tax sale, and accept an offer from the highest bidder. And this is final – all you are entitled to is any profit above what is owed on taxes, your mortgage or any other amount owing against the land, and the municipality is not required to accept the highest or best price or inquire into property values.You can check out the Municipal Tax Sales Act here.

Update your will!

Posted in Estate Planning by Cesia Green on June 11, 2013
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I love reading Consumer Reports. It’s a great magazine with a lot of very useful tips – both in general, and when you’re looking to make a major purchase.

I was catching up on my reading recently, and came across this article on money mistakes to avoid and the first point caught my eye. I say this a lot on this blog but it bears repeating: having an out-of-date will (or beneficiary designations) can often be as financially disastrous as having no will at all. Get it, and update it.

What happens if you don’t close?

Posted in Real Estate by Cesia Green on June 7, 2013
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I have had this situation aCold feet few times: a client calls not too long before closing, and they’ve gotten cold feet. What happens if you don’t want to close the deal?

Generally, if you refuse to close, you must have a legitimate reason. As a buyer, if something is uncovered that would severely affect your enjoyment or use of the house, or your title to it, and you had no way of discovering it any earlier, you may be justified in not closing. As a seller, you are somewhat limited in why you can legitimately refuse to close, beyond not receiving funds. If you believe you have a legitimate reason, and refuse to close, you still run the risk of ultimately being found not legitimate, and then you will have to pay all of the other side’s costs that result from not closing. This could be additional mortgage costs, moving costs, or even the extra cost of buying a different house.

Before putting in an offer, be certain that you want it.

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