Monday, June 17, 2013

Canada's Military Gun Show over Ambush marketing

It must be a slow news day when a story about the Department of National Defence asserting its Intellectual Property rights warrants a picture and a quarter page spread.

Some of Canada's military regiments will be celebrating 100 year anniversaries next year having been formed at the outset of the first world war. In anticipation of the "ambush marketing" sure to mark such an auspices occasion, DND, in a pre-emptive "gun show", has flexed its IP muscles warning that unauthorized use of cap badges, regimental colours and the like to commemorate regimental anniversaries could be an infringement of Crown intellectual property rights.

Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry

One of these regiments is the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.  The regiment was recruited, equipped and financed from the personal finances of  Andrew Hamilton Gault.  The charter of the regiment was signed on August 10, 1914 some 10 days after the war was declared. 

The regiment was named for the daughter of Canada's Governor-General,  Princess Patricia of Connaught, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. The regiment's first formal parade was conducted on August 23 in Ottawa during which Princess Patricia presented the regimental standard, a flag which the Princess designed and made by hand herself. At right is a picture of a re-enactment; my father is at the head of the group, portraying Hamilton Gault.



Protecting the Crown's intellectual property rights

DND owns a section 9 mark for the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry badge, shown here (right). Unauthorized use of this mark on any goods or services is actionable infringement.

So, when the Regimental Association decided to do some anniversary fundraising by commissioning privately labelled PPCLI wines it was very careful in its labeling, as you can see here. 

However, according to the latest news, DND recently issued new guidelines to govern the production and sale of commemorative beer, wine and spirits in an effort to assist the "regiments and their foundations to remain within the appropriate legal, ethical and historical/heritage boundaries".   The new rules include limiting the sale of commemorative alcohol to within the military, requiring associations to ask for permission to use regimental logos, and using established (and presumably Canadian) brewers, vintners and distilleries.

Oh oh.  I bought two bottles of this wine last year as a gift for my father.  No doubt he's disposed of the evidence by now.

(PS Happy belated Father's day, dad!)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Summer time = Frisbee® fun time

Frisbee® Flying Discs – not just a day at the beach

Here in Ottawa flying disc related activities take up a big part of my summer. (I'm going to call them frisbees -- with apologies to Wham-O but seriously it really is generic; nobody knows what a flying disc is.) I play Ultimate two times a week and have been known to put in a round or two of disc golf. I've also managed to include it in my marketing efforts.

Some of you may remember my INTA mission to obtain frisbees as a souvenir. There was the trek to the University of Washington, the odyssey to Columbine, the clandestine hand off in DC, odd packages being delivered to my hotels in San Francisco and Amsterdam … Regrettably, I have not had the time at INTA to devote to this lately.

Back at the beginning of May, Hunt Law donated frisbees to a Big Brothers/Big Sisters disc golf event put on by the Ottawa Disc Golf Association. Next month, we are giving away a bar tab to an Ultimate Frisbee team.

Ultimate: a team sport played with a frisbee

The object of the game is to score points by passing the frisbee to a player in the opposing end zone. Two teams, usually of seven players, begin at opposite end zones and try to advance the frisbee to the other end zone. The playing field is about 120 yards long and 40 yards wide.  The frisbee may be moved only by passing, so the player holding the disc must not move and has 10 seconds to throw the frisbee. If a pass is incomplete, intercepted or caught out of bounds, the opposing team immediately gains possession and tries to move the frisbee in the other direction.  

Disc Golf: like golf only you throw little frisbees into a basket

A game in which individual players throw a frisbee at a target.  You  can go anywhere and just throw the frisbee at something or you can go to a proper course.  Here in Ottawa we have one where you walk up and down ski hills; it's exhausting. You can use a regular sized frisbee or use ones specially made for this game which are smaller in diameter, have different weights and different edges.  There are hundreds of varieties of disc golf frisbees each designed to fly differently.  Keen players have a bag of about 20 to play a round.  I use three -- an XL driver, my Deuce approach and a putter. 

Of course, nothing beats playing catch with a frisbee at the beach.  There's no better place to lay out.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Countdown to INTA AM in the big D

Now that I’ve done some research for INTA AM in Dallas, Texas May 5 - 8, 2013 … 


… I am seriously regretting my travel arrangements

For the past few years I have tried very hard to use public transportation to and from the airports, it’s my little environmental bit. I was pleasantly surprised by the ease and speed of this in San Francisco, Boston and D.C. However, it appears that getting to and from Dallas Fort Worth Airport by transit would be an hour and a half ordeal. I probably should have chosen to fly to the smaller “in city” airport.

Also, my hotel is the furthest from the Convention Centre. However, some of the receptions I will be going to are closer to my hotel than the convention centre hotels so that’s a big bonus.

… I’ve discovered that it’s the BIG D

It’s not very original but they call Dallas the Big D. Apparently it’s because “big things happen here”. More interesting is the fact that all over Dallas there are life size letters “B” and “G”. You are supposed to stand in between them, becoming the “I” and have your picture taken. Then you can share your photo on the social networks facebook, tweet, instagram, tumblr, pinterest with the hashtag #DallasBIG. Apparently, lots of Dallas retailers are giving deals, specials and discounts to people who share their BIG photos.


… This sounds interesting for Saturday afternoon

If I was in the Big D on Saturday afternoon, I would definitely be up for this Cinco de Mayo MADNESS Tour of some of Dallas' most famous margarita meccas

Alas, I won’t be able to do this but I sure am looking forward to some real tex-mex food.

… Urban Cowboys

The INTA AM Finale is at Gilley’s the bar where John Travolta worked and learned about life and love in the movie Urban Cowboy. The bar is named for that great country singer Mickey Gilley and is the home of Urban Cowboy memorabilia, great Texan food, cold beer, country music and maybe even mechanical bull rides.

Yee haw! Looking forward to seeing you in your Stetsons and spurs. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

10,000 black and blue suits, with nametags, in your city’s downtown? Must be INTA AM.

10,000 black and blue suits, with nametags, in your city’s downtown?
Must be INTA AM.

As I work out my schedule for INTA AM in Dallas, Texas May 5 - 8, 2013, I offer some tips on getting the most out of the annual meeting.

"Just put yourself about."

When I went to my first INTA AM my boss told me to “put yourself about”. Meaning hang around the conference and dole out and collect business cards; as long as I came back with a pile of cards he was happy.

I soon realized that most people were actually scheduling meetings; some even seemed to have schedules with meetings every half hour. So I started scheduling meetings with people had I met in previous years.

It wasn’t until about my fifth AM that it occurred to me that meeting with people I was already working with would be a good idea. My boss was not impressed with this idea. His attitude: Why would I want to waste time on someone who was already giving us work? OMG seriously!?! But I went ahead because of a problem I was having on a file with a German associate. I thought if I took her out for dinner we might be able to solve the problem. We had such a nice time that we schedule a meal together every year now. And, yes, we did solve the problem.

The Devil (and the party) is in the Details

So, my INTA AM schedule starts with breakfasts and lunches with clients. Then I fill in any meal gaps with INTA friends. Other activities I might do with INTA friends is reception hop, shopping, or late afternoon drinks. There is also usually a Saturday night dinner with a big group and a Tuesday night dinner.

I do schedule some of those “every half hour meetings”. They are a pain -- you have to find the right person in a sea of name tags and they are often no shows -- but you never know when one of those will turn into something interesting. Another plus is the other people you meet who are also waiting.  Last year I found out that there is a soccer tournament at INTA AM. Apparently, it is mostly the young southern America hemisphere attendees’ thing. Ooh la la!

The trick to these meetings is to find a unique meeting spot; easier said than done if you don’t know the first thing about where you are but I must say that the advent of smart phones has made this a lot easier. The message “I’m standing beside the big purple flower” is actually quite helpful!

The last thing I do is schedule receptions. In order to attend a variety of receptions a lot of foresight and planning is required; and a map. First you need to sort the receptions by date and time. Then you need to figure out where they are and how best to plot a course through the city that gets you to the receptions with the least amount of running around.

Be Flexible

Finally, you have got to be flexible. Meetings are going to start late or run late. Opportunities to do something wonderful are going to arise. Don’t be so tied to your schedule that you miss out on a great event. Also keep your eye on Twitter, you’ll find out where all the action is!

At you can get the Annual Meeting mobile app. The app will be available on April 15th and you can use it to create your schedule of personal appointments and receptions.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

#1 Networking tip: Be interested in other people


10,000 black and blue suits, with nametags, in your city’s downtown? 

Must be INTA AM.  


10,000 black and blue suits, with nametags, in your city’s downtown? 

Must be INTA AM. 


My client Jim Gilbert at Wheels and Deals Canada's Huggable Used Car Dealer posted this today.
I think it goes along with my networking post from yesterday.

#1 Networking tip:  Be interested in other people

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Registered Attendee INTA Annual Meeting 2013, Dallas

10,000 black and blue suits, with nametags, in your city’s downtown?

Must be INTA AM.

As I work out my schedule for INTA AM in Dallas, Texas May 5 - 8, 2013, I offer some tips on getting the most out the annual meeting.

At you can grab these for your emails, blogs, etc.

Breaking the ice

The INTA AM is all about networking. You will be talking to people 24/7. Sure you can wax on eloquently about all things trade-mark law. But it’s “what else you got” that makes you special enough that you will stick in someone’s brain. So, you are going to need things to talk about other than trade-mark law.

I’m a lawyer I’m used to talking .. what’s the big deal?

You don’t have to do all the talking. I know, I know you’re a lawyer you’re used to talking. But, just remember it’s a conversation not a pleading. Ask questions. And listen to the answers as that will help keep a conversation going.

You could talk about yourself or …

My favourite go to conversation pieces

My favourite go to conversation piece is the city itself. So, if you can, arrive early and do some touring. Ideally, don’t just do an INTA tour. Branch out on your own. You’ll be amazed at how few people do this and yet they are genuinely interested to know what there is to do. And will find it fascinating that you’ve actually done something.

My second favourite conversation piece is the keynote speaker. When I first started going to INTA AM, I would go to the keynote – I didn’t have anything else to do on a Sunday afternoon (sigh). Now it’s on Monday morning and I can’t fit it in.

If nothing else, there might be eye candy!

There have been some amazing speakers (there probably still are!). I’ll never forget the lady from San Diego Zoo and all her critters. The point is, I’m not the only one who doesn’t go. So, if you can, go, listen and find something interesting in it to talk about. For example, when Elle MacPherson was the keynote, all we ladies could talk about was who our eye candy speaker would be. (Really hoping this will be the year – please PTB at INTA can you get Mr. Jones to bring some Dallas Cowboys with him?)

You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away …

The hardest part of networking, for me, is moving on. I find it difficult to extricate myself from a conversation and just walk away without a real reason. Frankly, I’m not very good at this but here are a few exit strategies I’ve developed:

- see someone you just “must talk to”
- refresh your drink
- get some food
- need to use the restroom (really quite desperate and not recommended)
- have a meeting

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tips for getting the most out the INTA annual meeting.

Its spring! Must be time for the INTA Annual Meeting

10,000 black and blue suits, with nametags, in your city’s downtown?

Must be INTA AM. 


As I work out my schedule for INTA AM in Dallas, Texas May 5 - 8, 2013, I offer some tips on getting the most out the annual meeting.

Location, Location, Location

One of the first decisions you will have to make regarding attending the INTA AM is where you will stay. INTA provides a bunch of conference hotels but before you can book into one of these you must be a registered attendee. There are many reasons to put off registering but if you do, be forewarned your hotel choices will be severely limited.

If you find that the conference hotels are all booked or you don’t like being at a conference hotel, in some cities, it is remarkably easy to find accommodation. Just hit the google trail, armed with a city map and a public transportation map. However, from my attempts, I don’t think Dallas is one of those cities so I’m giving up and sticking with the conference hotel.

This is the little Inn I found in Washington DC last year.
There are many advantages to staying at a conference hotel. Usually they are close to the conference centre and if they are not, there will be shuttles going back and forth. The shuttles usually run very frequently but can often get stuck in downtown congestion. Be prepared to use alternative modes of transportation: taxis, subway, and yes, feet (those boots were made for walking). By the way, INTA attendees are notorious taxi users so be prepared to wait awhile.

The Early Bird gets …

The Conference officially begins with the Opening Reception on Sunday evening. However, there are receptions throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday as well as the INTA Gala (a rather stuffy black tie dinner and dancing affair - best avoided imho) so arriving on Saturday is the norm. When I am in INTA town on Saturday night I’ve always found myself a dinner party to attend.

You may also want to arrive early to do a little sightseeing or shopping or catch a sporting activity.

This year, INTA has arranged for attendees to have exclusive shopping at Neiman Marcus (Downtown Dallas 1618 Main St.) on Sunday, May 5 from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm.

In May baseball has started and basketball and hockey are just wrapping up. There is usually at least one team with a home game during the week of INTA AM.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

It's spring! Time for the International Trademark Association’s Annual Meeting

10,000 black and blue suits, with nametags, in your city’s downtown? 

Must be INTA AM.

Every year I go to the International Trademark Association’s (INTA) Annual Meeting (AM). The Association bills the AM as the premier trademark event for networking, continuing legal education, and committee and client meetings and provides two social events: the Opening Reception and the Finale. The Opening Reception is generally at the Convention Centre and fairly lame. The Finale is usually at a museum and, depending on the museum, can be very good.

Here I am at the Meissner Bolte reception in Berlin in 2008. 


My Ladies – you know who you are

INTA AM is a chance for me to get together with all the lawyers I work with on a regular basis who are scattered throughout the world.  I have been meeting with some of them for more than 20 years. Me and my lady friends meet for breakfast or lunch and eat, drink, talk some shop but mostly, as one of them once said, bitch about our husbands (JK honey!) and laugh, or cry, about the antics of our kids.

Oh yeah, there’s some Continuing Legal Education

There are three days of educational programming but it’s hard to fit that in between the two hour breakfasts, quickie mid-morning meetings with unknown but potential new contacts, two hour lunches and reception hopping that starts around 4pm and goes on into the wee hours of the morning.

At the Wax Museum, Washington DC, 2012

Lawyers gone wild

The highlight of the Annual Meeting is the receptions that private law firms and some service providers throw. Since there are many receptions going on simultaneously, my attendance at any given reception is based on 1) venue, 2) host or 3) location. There are certain receptions I always attend because a friend is a host and I want to support them; location and venue are irrelevant. Otherwise, I generally will forego a reception in a hotel to attend one at a restaurant, museum, art gallery, sports venue or other interesting spot.

It's all in the details

As I work out my schedule for INTA AM in Dallas, Texas May 5 - 8, 2013, I plan to offer some tips on getting the most out the annual meeting.   I hope you'll enjoy the blogs and find them helpful.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Elements Of A Good Estate Plan (Part 4)

Estate Planning

Proper estate planning should, at a minimum include: a Will, a Power of Attorney for Property, and a Power of Attorney for Personal Care. But good estate planning doesn’t end there. Preparing your affairs for the inevitable now will help make your Executor or Estate Trustee’s difficult job an easier one.

Organize Your Relevant Documents

Recently, the Wall Street Journal published an article on this very topic: “The 25 Documents You Need Before You Die”. The article springs from the fact that many insurers do not pay insurance if it is not claimed and that billions of dollars in bank accounts remain unclaimed. The reason for this: the Estate Trustee cannot make claims against things he doesn’t know exist.

The solution: organize your relevant documents and make sure your heirs and/or Estate Trustee are aware of where all your documents can be found.

The Relevant Documents

Here is a list of the kinds of documents:

Powers of Attorney
Proofs of ownership of real property, cemetery plot, vehicles;
Stock certificates, savings bonds and brokerage accounts;
Proof of loans made or debts owed;
Tax returns
Divorce documents
Death Certificates
List of bank accounts, user names, passwords;
List of safety deposit boxes
Life insurance policies
Details of RRSPs
Pension documents
Annuity contracts

Need Help with your Estate Planning?

If you need help with your estate planning contact myself or any Wills and Estates Lawyer. My goal is to deliver personalized high quality Wills and Estate Planning services in a direct, approachable and cost effective way. I implement the efficient use of technology to reduce or eliminate bottom line costs to my clients.

For more information visit my website at

Monday, March 11, 2013

Wills, Estate Planning and Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey -- Property Law can be fun

In my tweeter feed I came upon “3 retirement lessons from ‘Downton Abbey"

I was a little disappointed in it because I expected a discourse on how and why Matthew, a middle class lawyer from Manchester, is the heir to the estate and would, eventually, be the 6th Earl of Grantham.

The facts

So back in Series 1, we learned that Cora, an American heiress, had married Robert, a titled but likely impoverished British aristocrat. Cora came with a huge dowry (this was, after all, back in the 1800’s in England). We also learned that the property is “entailed” and that Robert’s father had, somehow, managed to tie up the dowry funds so that they pass along with the title and the estate only to male heirs.

The law

Back in the day, an entail or fee tail was a pretty common way to make certain that the land stayed "in the family". A property held in fee tail cannot be sold, given by Will or in any way passed to others except to the heir. So it was impossible for the family to lose the land. However it left many individuals wealthy in land but still heavily in debt. It also meant that if there was a “failure of issue”, the property could pass to a far distant relative.

"Good facts make bad law" but great TV

As is the case in Downton Abbey where there is, of course, a huge dearth of males on the family tree; Robert and Cora only have daughters. So with the deaths of a couple of male relations on the Titanic, a third cousin, Matthew Crawley, is destined to be the next Earl and owner of Downton Abbey. Fortunately, he’s a handsome young man so marrying the eldest daughter to him is not a terribly disagreeable way to keep it all in the family (as opposed to poor Elizabeth’s predicament in Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice). Cue years of troubled on again off again romance between the two.

Want to totally control your heirs? Do it right, ask a lawyer for help.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Taking on Copyright Infringers on Social Media

Just because you can copy the image doesn't mean you should

We’ve had a little copyright excitement here in Ottawa over the weekend. Seems a radio station used a photograph it had no rights in and the owner found out. Yes, a radio station. They used the photo in a print presentation looking for sponsorship of a contest. The owner of the photograph asked for compensation and the radio station believing the requested amount was outrageously high decided not to pay.

Taking it to the Streets

The owner of the photograph decided to take to the airwaves herself – the Tweeter and Facebook airwaves that is.

The radio station then posted its version of the story on its Facebook page using words like “extortion”. The comments weren’t all in favour of the photographer’s rights but enough were that the post has now been removed.

However the post is still available on the Web, here,

What do I think?

This came to my attention on Saturday when my daughter -- bored silly traveling to Toronto by bus and scouring her Facebook feed for entertainment I have to presume -- asked me what I thought of it. I gave her a quick lesson in copyright infringement. Sometimes it’s so blatant it’s easy.

“Clearly copyright infringement and she is within her rights to demand whatever compensation she likes. They should have had her permission in the first place. Offering to pay a “fair price” after the fact isn’t good enough. It doesn’t teach them a lesson. It just encourages them to do it again and hope the photographer is less vigilant.”

Seriously people, lawyer up!

My final thoughts on the subject were that the radio station might regret its actions. Not only should it not have used the photo in the first place, it surely should not have posted the emails where it admitted doing it!  They should have called a lawyer -- like this wise owl lady lawyer. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Family Day Weekend February 15 – 18, 2013: Extreme Fun in the Sun (and cold)

Mont Tremblant, Quebec


Crystal Inn
We have been going to Mont Tremblant Ski Resort for years.  It is located about a two and and a half hour drive northeast of Ottawa.  We have stayed in the Resort village at a bunch of different hotels, we have stayed in the tiny town down the road, we've borrowed a friend's cottage.  But this year, I think we may have found a hidden gem!  Crystal Inn Bed and Breakfast contains numerous murals and four crystal themed rooms. We were in the Amethyst room. It has purple walls and lilac trim. There are purple towels and purple bathrobes.  (I put some photos on my Facebook page.  Go have a look.  Or go to their Facebook page for even more pictures.) The Inn has a hot tub and the night cleared just long enough for us to sit in it under the stars. Then the clouds rolled in and it started to gently snow. Gorgeous. We signed up for a 7am breakfast which consisted of bottomless orange mango smoothies and the best crepes I’ve ever had. An hour and half chitchatting with the owners was thoroughly enjoyable but put us behind schedule so our first run wasn’t until 10am; just as the rest of the gang was taking their first break.

 Snow Conditions

The ski hills of Eastern Canada and the United States are notoriously icy.  Tremblant is no exception and generally in mid February it would be at it's worst.  So, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the snow conditions were optimal.  Indeed, you had to try very hard to find those icy patches!  Not once in the three days of riding, did I find myself on my butt crying and cursing that I had taken on too much hill! 


It was cold.  Going up in the chair lifts was bone chilling!  Everyone had their goggles down and face masks up.  But there was a great big sky and at the bottom of the runs in the lift lines the sun warmed you up, a bit. Monday morning it was -19C with the wind chill making it seem like -29C.  I tried to take a picture of the wind blowing Luke around at the summit but I think it was too cold for the camera.  There is no picture anyway. 

Big thanks to my brother's brother-in-law for arranging the weekend.  Planning is something I'm not very good at and committing to a ski vacation months in advance is something I never do.  You can't trust the weather or the snow conditions.  I never would have gone to Tremblant this past weekend if I had been paying attention to the weather.  Just goes to show, you never know.


If you really want to enjoy the nightlife at Tremblant, you need to say on the Hill preferably in the pedestrian village.  The condo the family stayed at was about a 15 minute walk from the bar scene which ensured the young adults would have all kinds of drama on their night out.  Which they did.  

We were not at the condo but at the old railway hotel Hotel Mont Tremblant and Au Coin Resto-Bar in the old village.  We discovered that there is a great bus service and took advantage of it to avoid drinking and driving and enjoy dinner with the family at the condo and a pitcher of beer at El Diablo on saturday night. El Diablo is a great little brew pub we always visit when we at Tremblant.

'til Next Time

Easter is early this year and with the tremendous snowfall we've had, conditions should be great for spring skiing over the Easter weekend.   We have spent many Easters at Tremblant.  It is often the last weekend of the season and part of the Sikwam festival.  There is also the Caribou Splash which is great fun to watch.   

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Elements Of A Good Estate Plan (Part 1)

 Estate Planning

Proper estate planning should, at a minimum include: a Will, a Power of Attorney for Property, and a Power of Attorney for Personal Care.

Your Will

As you probably know, a Will is a written document that sets out how your “estate” should be taken care of after death. It takes effect when you die. A person's estate typically consists of real estate, money, investments, and personal or household belongings.

In the Will you appoint an “executor” who gathers up all your assets (your estate), pays your debts and divides what remains of your stuff among the people you named in your Will.

Powers of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives someone else the right to act on your behalf. This is important in the event that something should happen to you and you can’t take care of things yourself but you are alive.

A Continuing Power of Attorney for Property allows someone to deal with your stuff like selling things or getting at the money in your bank accounts.

A Power of Attorney for Personal Care kicks in if you become in capable of making decisions concerning your health care. It allows someone to talk to doctors and others about how you should be treated, or not as the case may be. So that’s the legal documentation you should have in place.


Need Help with your Estate Planning?

If you need help with your estate planning contact myself or any Wills and Estates Lawyer. My goal is to deliver personalized high quality Wills and Estate Planning services in a direct, approachable and cost effective way. I implement the efficient use of technology to reduce or eliminate bottom line costs to my clients.

For more information visit my website at

The Elements of A Good Estate Plan (Part 2)

Estate Planning

Proper estate planning should, at a minimum include: a Will, a Power of Attorney for Property, and a Power of Attorney for Personal Care. But good estate planning doesn’t end there.  There are lots of other things you should consider. Just as you make TO DO lists in your personal and business life, you should make TO DO lists to deal with your death.

In no particular order:

Power of Attorney for Personal Care

Think about is how you want to be treated if you should become seriously ill. That Person who has the authority to direct the doctors (the Power of Attorney for Personal Care) should know what you want. There are lots of places that can help you put this into words. I suggest you start with the Five Wishes program for ideas. Once you’ve figured it out, talk to your family so they know what you want.

Inventory Your Assets

Take an inventory of all your stuff. Make lists. Decide to whom you’d like to give things to. When I’m with a client I have to ask this question. I dread it because if they decide to start dealing with each thing in the Will, it makes my work so much harder.

Nevertheless, if a client says they have nothing special, I don’t let it go at that. If I’m at the client’s home, I look around and point at something that catches my eye. Then I ask about it. This one time I’m sitting at the dining table with the client and her two adult children. I ask the question. The children roll their eyes. On the wall above the client is a collection of carousel horses. Those horses are lovely I say. What about them? She shrugs; kids roll their eyes. Later as we’re wrapping up, I ask her if she has any questions. She says: I want so and so to have the horses. The kids are like “what!?”. When I come back a few days later to sign off the Will, the only thing she’s interested in is making sure I put in the horse collection. All I can think is I’m glad it wasn’t the parrots that caught my eye!

Look out for your pets

All joking aside, single people should worry about what will happen to their pets. It’s inhumane not to. Providing for a pet in a Will is, frankly, no different than providing for young children. Appoint someone to look after the pet and make sure there’s money to cover the expenses. I don’t consider that eccentric. I “inherited” a cat once. My friend’s mother died and all of a sudden my friend developed acute cat allergies! Regrettably no trust fund had been set up for it and I ended up footing the bills for this rather unpleasant animal.

Intangible Assets

An often forgotten asset is Airmiles, Frequent Flyer Points and the like. Frequent flyer miles and other points are a liability for the issuer so be aware that they make it complicated to bequeath them. In fact, by some estimates, 25 to 30 percent of accumulated miles end up expiring when the "owner" dies, letting issuers off the hook for the cost of redeeming them. Check the fine print of your issuer’s policy in the program rules sections of their Web site. Many policies DO NOT allow for any transfer. Others allow the transfer but charge fees for it.

Need Help with your Estate Planning?

If you need help with your estate planning contact myself or any Wills and Estates Lawyer. My goal is to deliver personalized high quality Wills and Estate Planning services in a direct, approachable and cost effective way. I implement the efficient use of technology to reduce or eliminate bottom line costs to my clients.

For more information visit my website at

The Elements Of A Good Estate Plan (Part 3)

Estate Planning

Proper estate planning should, at a minimum include: a Will, a Power of Attorney for Property, and a Power of Attorney for Personal Care. But good estate planning doesn’t end there.

Designating Beneficiaries in Insurance, Pensions and the like

I cannot over emphasize how important it is to ensure that you keep your beneficiary designations in such things as insurance, pensions, RRSPs, TFSA and any other similar plans complimentary to your overall estate planning. It is crucial to pay attention to and keep up to date these designations because in the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary the Courts will uphold these designations. That is to say they may survive separation, divorce, and even separation agreements renouncing rights to take as designated, if the designation has not itself been amended by the time of the planholder's death.

Make Your Estate The Beneficiary

Of course, sometimes it’s not possible to designate the preferred beneficiary. In that case, make your estate the beneficiary. Your estate may pay more in taxes but your Will can insure the monies go to the right person.

Need Help with your Estate Planning?

If you need help with your estate planning contact myself or any Wills and Estates Lawyer. My goal is to deliver personalized high quality Wills and Estate Planning services in a direct, approachable and cost effective way. I implement the efficient use of technology to reduce or eliminate bottom line costs to my clients.

For more information visit my website at

Monday, February 11, 2013

Shekh ma shieraki anni -- My Sun and Stars

Valentine's Day Cookies

 If there was such a thing, here are Daenerys Targaryen’s Valentine’s Day cookies for Khal Drogo. Sun and stars for her sun and stars. 

(Yes, I am counting the days until Season 3 of The Game of Thrones begins, March 31.   Game of Thrones -- Chaos   )

Finding the perfect cookie

I decided to make some cookies for Valentine’s day (the Christmas baking has now all been consumed). I wanted something with orange flavour – just the mood I was in. I wanted it to have butter, orange peel or zest and orange juice. So I scoured the internet and I found this recipe. I was a little skeptical because I’ve been trying different sugar cookie recipes for years and never liked any.

When my kids were in middle school we instituted a Christmas baking day. Turns out there is always a PD day close to Christmas (usually sometime in mid to late November) so that was the day. Their friends could come over and kitchen mayhem ensued. The kids always enjoyed decorating cookies but I never could find a good recipe – either the dough was too hard to work with or it just didn’t taste good.

The Recipe

 Diana's Desserts Holiday Sugar Cookies
I like this recipe. It makes a nice soft puffy cookie. (My daughter thinks they are like muffins.) I don’t really think it’s a sugar cookie since they are not very sweet – the sugar to flour ratio should have been my first clue! Of course, icing will remedy that. I put in the zest of a whole orange; I think you could use more. Instead of vanilla I squeezed the juice out of half of the orange which was more than a teaspoon but it wasn’t a problem. Be very careful baking, you just want the very bottom edge to be brown.

For the icing I used butter and cream cheese and the juice from the other half of the orange. It is okay. I am still looking for the perfect icing for decorating cookies. I dipped some in melted chocolate.  This is my daughter's area of expertise and she had to go back to school so I had to do it myself.  I am happy with the results.

This made a ton of cookies so I have packaged up a whole bunch for this weekend, Family Day long weekend, which we are spending at Mont Tremblant ski resort.

Have a Happy Valentine's Day!  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Role of the Estate Trustee (Executor)


So, you’re named the Estate Trustee in your father’s Will. What do you do?

First of all, just remember that “Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee”is the new word for “probate”  in Ontario.

Jobs Of The Estate Trustee

1. Obtain the Originally signed Will

If the deceased has only a copy of the Will, the lawyer who drew up the Will likely has the original. When you retrieve the Will, make sure to get an Affidavit of Execution of the Will. You should also have the lawyer make at least 4 certified copies of the Will and Affidavit.

2. Arrange for Funeral and Burial

Determine whether there is a prepaid funeral, or any special burial instructions. Also determine whether the deceased filled out organ and tissue donation forms.

Make sure the Funeral Director provides at least 5 original Proof of Death Certificates.

Payment of funeral expenses comes ahead of any other creditor including the beneficiaries. With an account from the funeral director, the bank will authorize payment from the deceased’s account.

3. Open Estate Bank Account

Open a chequing account for the estate as soon as possible as you must give a strict accounting of all money received and disbursed. You will have to attend at the bank for most transactions until you get a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee (probate) so be sure the bank is convenient for you.

You will need the originals of the Will, Affidavit of Execution and Proof of Death Certificate to open the account; have the bank make copies. You will also need two pieces of identification.

4. Notify Government Agencies, etc., of Death

All sources of revenue should be notified of the death as soon as possible. Old age security and Canada Pension plan payments are valid for the month of death; if any further payments are received they must be returned. To avoid this hassle, call Service Canada to register the death. You should also obtain the necessary forms for death benefits, if any, at this time.

Other businesses that may require contact: credit card issuers; insurance companies; investment companies; phone, cable, internet, utilities and other services;

5. Pay the Debts of the Deceased

Determine what the deceased owed at the time of death. Payments to maintain the value of an asset (real estate, automobile) can usually be taken care of by the bank but all other payments may not be permitted without the Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee (probate). You should consider placing an advertisement for creditors. If you do not advertise and valid debts are later discovered, you will be personally responsible for payment of such debts.

Income Tax

In most estates, you are required to file (1) a final (terminal) return, (2) a capital gains return (actually a schedule to the terminal return), and (3) an income tax and trust information return for each year or part year the estate is under administration. Depending on the circumstances of the deceased taxpayer, there may be other returns to be filed as well.

As estate trustee, you are personally responsible for all income taxes owed by the deceased to Revenue Canada to the extent of the value of the assets of the estate. If you distribute the money in an estate without obtaining tax clearance, you will be personally responsible for payment of the income tax.

6. Transferring or Selling the Assets

Prepare a complete list of ALL of the assets of the deceased and determine the fair market value of each of them as of the date of death.  If these items are to be divided among several people it would be prudent to have all the beneficiaries sign releases saying that they agree with the division of property.

Many assets will have to be converted into money. It may be best to hire professionals to sell some assets and involve a lawyer to prepare the documents that are required to complete such sales. Note, you may not be able to deal with or transfer some assets without a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee (probate) for example, real estate and large investments.

7. Obtain the Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee (probate)

 The Certificate is issued by the Ontario Court; it certifies the death of the person and confirms the appointment of the estate trustee named in the Will. You should employ a lawyer to advise and assist you with this application. It is a daunting task; heavy on procedure and finicky paperwork.

8. Accounting to Beneficiaries

When all of the assets that are to be distributed as is have been distributed, all other assets converted into money, all debts paid, and all legacies paid, you may then distribute the residue to the beneficiaries. Before you distribute the residue have all the beneficiaries sign releases releasing you from claims.

9. Compensation

Estate Trustees are paid, normally based on a percentage of the value of the assets, as follows: 2.5% of capital receipts received and converted into cash; 2.5% of disbursements made by the estate trustee; 2.5% of income received by the estate from investments; 2.5% of revenue disbursements made by the estate trustee.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Canvassing for the Heart and Stroke Foundation

February is Heart Month

Here I am ready to go get donations


Canvassing for the Heart and Stroke Foundation

For the past couple of years, I have door to door canvassed for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Last year I got zero donations. This year I have the same route. I don’t have great expectations for much success. I went out today. It’s -13C and lightly snowing. Again I got nothing. I have to say I find my “neighbours” a little disappointing.

Oh well.

Why I Canvas for Heart and Stroke Foundation

I do this because in September of 2004 my friend Peggy, a woman I went to law school with died of heart failure. She was only 40 years old. She was a wonderful person. I will never forget the day she picked me up to go to the Bar Admission Course in Moncton, New Brunswick. She brought me a cup of coffee. “It’s cream and sugar, hope that’s okay. I didn’t know what you took in it.” she said. That’s the kind of heart she had.

I do this because in January of 2008 my friend Lennart who I met back in my undergraduate days at UNB died of a heart attack. I visited Lennart and his family in Sweden in 2006; I’m so glad I did. I had not seen him in probably over 20 years. We had a wonderful visit and a grand tour of Stockholm.

I do this because in 2010 my cousin Mark didn’t die of heart failure.

Please give generously 

 If someone comes to your door, please give. It doesn’t have to be much.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Obtaining the Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee (Probate) in Ontario


So, you’re named the Estate Trustee in your widowed mother’s Will. What do you do?

First of all, be aware, you will hear the word “probate” over and over. It drives me crazy when lawyers, bankers and realtors, say, accusingly, “haven’t you probated the Will yet?” They should know better: it’s been almost 20 years since we changed from “probate” to “Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee” in Ontario.

Nevertheless, your Google search for “probate in Ontario” will be just as effective, if not more so, as searching “administering an estate in Ontario”.

Is a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee necessary?

If there is real estate or significant monies in investments you will most likely be obliged to obtain a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee, aka “probate”, before you will be able to deal with these assets of the estate. The Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee (probate) is a document issued by the Ontario Court in the district where the deceased resided. It certifies the death of the person and confirms the appointment of the estate trustee named in the last Will. 

How do I apply for the Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee?

The Application comprises a number of Court forms. The forms are readily available online. At a minimum you will have to file the following:


1. Affidavit of Service of Notice of An Application For A Certificate Of Appointment Of Estate Trustee With A Will

A form document entitled Notice of An Application For A Certificate Of Appointment Of Estate Trustee With A Will is sent, by mail, to every beneficiary in the Will with a copy of the Will attached. Once the Notice has been mailed to each beneficiary, the Affidavit of Service can be executed. A copy of the Notice, as mailed is attached as an Exhibit. Someone authorized to take oaths must notarize both the Affidavit and the Exhibit.


2. Application for Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee with a Will

This document sets out the details of the deceased, the Estate Trustee and the estate. It must be notarized. Ideally, a reasonably accurate monetary valuation of the estate is required as Court fees (probate tax) are paid when the application is filed based on the value of the estate as set out in the Application. It is a bit of a catch 22 because without the Certificate of Appointment some assets cannot be sold and so their value can only be estimated. Note, payment of the fees can be postponed if further documents are filed.


3. Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee with a Will

This document is a draft of the Order that the Court will issue appointing the Estate Trustee.


4. Original of the Will and a copy


5. Original Affidavit of Execution of the Will


Some Final Caveats

The forms should be filed in exactly as presented. The clerks at the Court are not equipped to determine the validity of forms that differ from the norm and routinely reject them.  It may seem like a simple thing, but obtaining the Certificate is a daunting task; heavy on procedure and finicky paperwork. You would be wise to employ a lawyer to advise and assist you with the application.