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Discussing Your Estate Planning with Your Family Over the Holidays

Uncategorized Dec 19, 2017

One of my most popular blog posts of 2017 was the one on “Do I Need A Will”.

If you have made a will and other estate planning documents (such as financial power of attorney, personal directives, guardianship appointments), CONGRATULATIONS! You get a gold star! Most people in Canada do not have an up to date will.

Since many of us will be spending time with our families over the holidays, it can be a good time to pass along some information to them about EITHER what you have put in place OR what you have planned.

  1. Identity of Executor(s) – I often say that choosing an executor is the most important piece of your will planning. Has your executor agreed to take on the role? Do your family members know who you have chosen? You are not required to tell anyone, but it is a good idea to have a conversation with family members so you can explain your reasons, particularly if there may be some dispute or hurt feelings.
  2. Location of Important Documents – Does your...
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Video Blog – Why You Need a Social Media Policy in Your Business

Uncategorized Nov 27, 2017

Check out this recent vlog on why you need a social media policy in your business:

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Who Can Receive Dividends?

Uncategorized Nov 21, 2017

As we get into the holiday season, many of us are in a giving mood. But one of the important seasonal questions for business owners is – “Who Can Receive Dividends from my company this year?

For some context, the reason that we care about this question is primarily that paying dividends to family members in lower tax brackets can lower the overall tax burden for a family. This is possible because we have marginal tax rates which means that the lower your income in a year, the lower the rate of tax.

A business owner may also want to pay dividends out of their operating company to a holding company to provide some creditor protection or to purify their company to qualify for the capital gains exemption, but this is a topic for another blog post.

Here are some tips for determining who can receive dividends:

  1. Remember that dividends are a distribution of a share of PROFIT. If the company is not profitable in the year, there can be no dividends.
  2. Dividends have to be paid to ...
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Should I Have Commercial Insurance For My Car?

Uncategorized Nov 15, 2017

No one wants to find out after they have totaled their SUV that it is not covered by their insurance policy.

This was the case highlighted in a recent CTV news article, sent to me by one of the participants in my Legal Essentials course.  The headline was “Business owner’s occasional deliveries voids her insurance policy for wrecked car” .

The scary question for small business owners after reading such a story is – Should I have commercial insurance for my vehicle that I use in my business?

Here are my tips below:

Tip #1 – This is a conversation that you need to have with your insurance broker or insurance company. Confirm and document all such conversations in writing including what details you provided and what they said.

Tip #2 – Vehicles that are owned and registered to a company need Commercial Automobile Insurance.

Vehicles that are personally owned but used in the business may or may not need commercial coverage, depending on...

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Do I NEED A Will?

Uncategorized Nov 07, 2017

I am often asked by friends, neighbours and fellow small business owners the above question – Do I NEED A Will (emphasis on NEED)?

We kind of know that part of “adulting” is getting a will and other estate planning documents drafted at some point.  But where should this rank in the list of priorities of a busy business owner’s legal needs?

Legal Risk Assessment

Assessing any risk is made up of two parts: (1) considering the probability of something going wrong and (2) the impact of the negative consequences if it does.

A will is a legal document that names our legal representative and deals with our assets and liabilities on our death.

In the case of our own death, we are 100% sure this event is going to occur (probability), but in most cases, do not know when.  You will be dead (and therefore may not care), but the negative consequences set out below will be felt by surviving family members and in the case of a business, potentially employees and...

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Should I Just Click “I Agree”?

Uncategorized Oct 31, 2017

As we surf around the Internet, we are often required to click “I AGREE” to use an application, game or to buy products or services.

Business owners have often asked me, should I just click “I Agree” or do I need to read all of the details?

There are likely not enough hours in the day to read every word of all of the Terms of Service or Terms of Use that you encounter. Here are some practical tips about what to think about and what to focus on:

  1. Valid Contract – The law provides that you can enter into contracts electronically AND also allows the terms of such an agreement to be incorporated by hyperlinks to the more detailed terms of use. Therefore, by clicking “I AGREE”, you need to understand that you are entering into a valid legal contract. The terms do need to be “readable” to the user.
  2. Important Terms to Check – If you are downloading an application for use in your business, there are certain important terms of...
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What do I need to know as a Business Owner about Sexual Harassment?

Uncategorized Oct 24, 2017

I have been asking my readers for suggestions about blog topics. The topic today was suggested by several people. It is a subject that I did not want to write about, but I know that although it may be uncomfortable, it is super important.

The starting place for any business owner is to know that they are responsible to create a business and a workplace that is FREE FROM SEXUAL HARASSMENT.

This blog post will provide some information on how sexual harassment is defined in law and provide some tools to deal with the issue.


Human rights legislation exists in every province and territory as well as in the federal jurisdiction for federally regulated industries. For a complete listing of provincial and territorial human rights agencies click here.

The Human Rights Act (Nova Scotia) link defines “sexual harassment” as follows (my emphasis in bold):

  1. vexatious sexual conduct or a course of comment that is known or ought reasonably to be known as...
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Video Blog – Can I register my own trademark?

Uncategorized Oct 16, 2017

Check out this recent video blog we created about registering trademarks:

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Shopping for a Commercial Premises

Uncategorized Oct 10, 2017

Having a good or a bad lease can contribute significantly to the success or failure of a business.

I was asked by blog reader Denise, who is currently looking for a new commercial premises, to address some things to think about when shopping for a commercial property.  Here are my top 5 tips.

  1. NEGOTIATE – Only a few provinces and territories in Canada (BC, ON, NWT) have legislation which directly governs commercial leases. For Quebec see info here.  This means that unlike renting an apartment, there is a lot of room for negotiating the terms of your commercial lease.  On the downside, many large commercial landlords have long and complex leases which favour their interests, not those of the Tenants.  If you are not comfortable negotiating yourself, you should think about hiring a commercial leasing agent to represent you as a Tenant’s Agent. They will know the local market conditions and how to interpret lease provisions.
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What is the difference between buying SHARES and ASSETS of a business?

Uncategorized Oct 03, 2017

Most business owners who are in the process of buying a business do not think about whether they are buying the assets of the business or the shares.  They tend to think about the price, terms of payment and closing date, all of which are important of course.

Here are some helpful tips below to help inform this choice:

You need to know the legal structure of the seller or vendor.  Ask this up front.  You can only buy SHARES of an incorporated company and not of a sole proprietorship or partnership.  If you are buying from a sole proprietorship or partnership, you are buying assets.

  • The seller usually wants to sell the shares of an incorporated company to take advantage of the lifetime capital gains exemption.*
  • If the buyer buys the shares of an incorporated company, it takes on all past liabilities of the company, which may include liabilities of many types including tax, CPP, EI, WCB, judgements, bad credit with suppliers.  Careful due diligence is...
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