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.