Top 10 Things Every New Homebuyer Must Do Before Signing the Contract

Purchasing a home can be an exciting yet daunting experience. There are so many factors to consider, including price, location, and features. However, before you sign the contract, there are crucial steps that you must take to protect yourself as a new home buyer. In this blog post, we will discuss the top 10 things every new home buyer must do before signing the contract and making their biggest investment.

Top 10 things:

Research the area: It is important to research the neighborhood where you plan to buy a home. Check crime rates, school districts, and amenities such as parks, restaurants, and shopping centers. This information can affect the resale value of the home and impact your everyday life.

Check your credit score: Your credit score plays a significant role in getting a mortgage loan and determining interest rates. Make sure you have good credit before applying for a mortgage to avoid rejection or higher monthly payments.

Get pre-approved for a mortgage: Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is essential. This can help you know your budget and how much house you can afford. It also demonstrates to sellers that you are a serious buyer and can lead to quicker closing times.

Hire a real estate agent: A good real estate agent can help you navigate the housing market, negotiate contracts, and find suitable homes that meet your needs and budget.

Conduct a home inspection: Before signing the contract, make sure to get a home inspection. This helps you identify any existing problems or possible issues which can affect the sale or require more money later on for repairs.

Read the contract: Make sure to read the entire contract before signing it. This ensures that you understand all terms, including clauses, contingencies, and obligations. If you are unsure of any terms, ask your real estate agent or a lawyer for advice.

Save for closing costs: Closing costs are unavoidable expenses that cover legal fees, property taxes, and other costs associated with buying a home. Make sure to save enough money for these expenses so that you are not caught off guard.

Avoid moving money around: When applying for a mortgage, do not make any significant purchases, or move money around from different accounts. This can cause complications in the approval process and delay the closing date.

Purchase homeowners insurance: Just like car insurance, homeowners insurance is essential to protect your investment. It covers damages from natural disasters, fires, theft, and other risks.

Prepare for relocation: If you are moving to a new area, prepare for the relocation process by packing early, hiring reputable movers, and arranging for your utilities to be turned on.

In conclusion, buying a home is a significant commitment that requires careful consideration. These top 10 steps every new home buyer must do before signing the contract can help you make the best decision possible. Remember to research your neighborhood, check your credit score, and get pre-approved for a mortgage. Hire a real estate agent, conduct a home inspection, and read your contract thoroughly. Save for closing costs, avoid moving money around, and purchase homeowners insurance. Lastly, prepare for relocation if you are moving. Follow these steps, and you will be well on your way to homeownership.

The Critical Importance of a Personal Health Directive

Imagine a scenario where, due to an unforeseen medical event, you find yourself incapacitated, unable to voice your healthcare preferences or decisions. It’s an uncomfortable thought, yet it’s a reality that can strike anyone at any time, regardless of their current health status. This underscores the necessity of having a personal health directive, often known as a living will or medical power of attorney.

The consequences of not having a health directive can profoundly affect both you and your loved ones. Without this essential document, here are some of the critical situations you and your family might face:

Decision-Making Comes to a Halt

Without a designated person to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, medical professionals are left in a challenging position. They are constrained by legal and ethical guidelines that typically err on the side of prolonging life, potentially in ways that you might not prefer. Decision-making regarding your healthcare can be severely delayed, as doctors may need to seek court orders to proceed with or cease certain types of medical treatments.

Family Powerlessness and Conflicts

In the absence of a health directive, your loved ones are stripped of the ability to act on your behalf. This can lead to feelings of powerlessness and frustration, as they may know your preferences but lack the legal authorization to ensure they are followed. Furthermore, without clear guidance from you, family members might disagree on the best course of action, leading to conflicts that can escalate into legal battles, driving wedges between loved ones during an already distressing time.

Legal and Financial Complications

When decisions are at a standstill, and legal intervention is required to proceed with medical treatment or discontinuation, the process can be lengthy and financially draining. The costs associated with court proceedings or legal consultations can add considerable strain to an already emotionally taxing situation. These funds could otherwise contribute to medical bills or support for recovery.

Impersonal Medical Decisions

Without your personal input, medical decisions are made based on general healthcare principles and the clinicians’ professional judgments. This might result in a course of treatment that doesn’t align with your values, beliefs, or preferences. A health directive ensures that your voice is heard, even when you cannot speak, making your healthcare experience as personalized and respectful of your wishes as possible.

How to Safeguard Your Preferences and Loved Ones

Creating a health directive may seem daunting, but it’s a straightforward process that can save a significant amount of stress and uncertainty. Here’s how you can begin:

  1. Consult with Healthcare Professionals: Understand the types of decisions that might need to be made if you’re unable to make them yourself. This can help you think through your preferences wisely.
  2. Legally Document Your Wishes: Whether it’s appointing a medical power of attorney or creating a living will, make sure your decisions are recorded in a legally recognized format.
  3. Communicate with Your Designated Decision Maker and Loved Ones: Ensure those close to you, especially the person or persons you’ve designated to make decisions, understand your preferences clearly.
  4. Review Regularly: Over time, your wishes might evolve. Regularly review your health directive to ensure it still reflects your current preferences.

Taking the initiative to prepare a health directive ensures that, even in the most vulnerable moments, your healthcare choices are respected, and your dignity is upheld. More than a legal document, it’s an act of kindness towards yourself and a gift of clarity and guidance for your loved ones during difficult times.

Got questions about estate planning? Reach out to us for a complimentary consultation and see how we can assist you in putting together a personal directive that outlines your wishes clearly and ensure you have all the legal documents you need when planning your estate needs.

Avoid These Estate Planning Mistakes to Protect Your Legacy

Estate planning is not something that people enjoy thinking about, but it is essential for every individual to plan their estate to ensure their legacy is protected for the future generation. Proper estate planning is about creating a comprehensive plan of action for who will receive your assets and how they will be distributed, in the event of your incapacity or death.

However, estate planning can be a challenging task. Many people make mistakes in the process which can cause significant issues down the line. In this article, we will discuss the most common estate planning mistakes that people make, and how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Failing to Plan

Many people avoid the process of estate planning altogether, thinking that it is not necessary. However, failing to plan properly can lead to significant trouble for your loved ones, if something happens to you. Without a will or a trust plan, your assets will be distributed by provincial law, which might not necessarily align with your wishes.

How to Avoid: The best way to avoid this mistake is to work with a professional estate planning lawyer to create a comprehensive plan that is aligned with your wishes.

Mistake #2: Not Updating Your Plan

Even after creating an estate plan, people make the mistake of not updating it when significant life events occur. Life events such as the birth of children/grandchildren, divorce, and other significant life changes can significantly impact your estate planning needs.

How to Avoid: Ensure that you are reviewing your estate plan regularly with your estate planning attorney to make the necessary changes based on significant life events.

Mistake #3: Not considering Your Beneficiaries

Not all assets are passed by probate, which means you need to pay attention to each asset’s beneficiary designation. In some cases, people forget to update their beneficiary designation or leave it to the wrong people.

How to Avoid: Always ensure that your beneficiary designations are consistent with your estate planning documents and are up to date.

Mistake #4: Choosing the Wrong Trustee or Executor

When selecting a trustee or executor, people often make the mistake of choosing family members without considering their qualifications or ensuring that they are willing to serve.

How to Avoid: Choose a trustee or executor that is reliable, trustworthy, and competent to carry out their duties as defined under your plan.

Mistake #5: No Power of Attorney or Personal Directive

An enduring power of attorney and personal directive is necessary for everyone to ensure that their health care and financial decisions can be made, in the event of incapacity or disability.

How to Avoid: Work with your estate planning lawyer to create an enduring power of attorney and personal directive that is consistent with your estate plan.

Estate planning is about making sure that your assets end up in the right hands and that your loved ones are protected. While it may seem like a daunting task initially, avoiding mistakes can help ensure that your estate plan is comprehensive and up-to-date. Work with an estate planning lawyer and avoid the mistakes discussed in this article to ensure that your wishes are fulfilled and your legacy is protected. Proper estate planning is a tribute to your loved ones and the ideal way to secure your family’s future.

At Summit Legal Group, we include a comprehensive Will Package, which includes the Will and Last Testament, as well as the Personal Directive and Enduring Power of Attorney. Reach out to us today to find out how we can help and ensure your legacy is protected in the preparation of your legal documents.

A Guide to Selling your House as a Non-Resident

Are you a homeowner who lives outside of Canada and is looking to sell your property in Alberta? You may feel overwhelmed or unsure about the necessary steps to take. However, selling a home in Alberta as a non-resident does not have to be a daunting experience. With proper planning and assistance, you can successfully sell your property and achieve your desired outcome. In this guide, we will cover everything you need to know about selling your house in Alberta as a non-resident.

As a non-resident, you may be subject to different rules and regulations compared to Canadian residents. It’s essential to determine your residency status for tax purposes. Consult with a tax professional to understand your obligations and any potential exemptions or tax implications.

Hire a Real Estate Agent:   

The first step to selling your house in Alberta is to hire a licensed real estate agent who specializes in working with non-residents. Your agent should have experience and knowledge of the local market and regulations. They can provide essential advice and guidance throughout the selling process. A trusted agent may also help you find potential buyers and complete the transaction on your behalf, saving you time and hassle.

Get a Property Appraisal:

It is important to determine the market value of your property before putting it up for sale. A professional property appraisal can provide you with an accurate estimate of the current value of your house. A licensed property appraiser or your real estate agent can conduct this appraisal.

In Alberta, sellers are legally required to disclose any known material defects or issues with the property. Provide potential buyers with a completed Property Disclosure Statement to ensure transparency.

Obtain a Clearance Certificate:

As a non-resident seller, you are required to obtain a Clearance Certificate from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). This certificate confirms that you have paid all necessary taxes related to your property ownership in Canada. Because the application process can take several months, we recommend applying for the certificate early in the selling process.

Understand the Tax Implications:

Selling a property in Canada as a non-resident may have tax implications. The CRA may withhold taxes from the purchase price of your property as a security deposit until you file your Canadian tax return. It is important to understand the tax laws and regulations related to property sales for non-residents to avoid any unexpected financial consequences.

The CRA requires that non-residents pay a withholding tax of 25% on any capital gains realized from the sale of a Canadian property. However, this rate may be reduced if there is a tax treaty between Canada and your home country. If your property is a rental property, the withholding amount is greater.

Determine Your Selling Strategy:

Finally, you need to determine your selling strategy. Your agent can help you create an effective marketing plan that showcases your property’s unique features and attracts potential buyers. As well, you may also have to decide if you are willing to negotiate on the sale price and how much you are willing to spend on repairs or upgrades to your property.

Selling a house in Alberta as a non-resident can be a challenging and complex process but is very achievable. By following these tips and working with trusted industry professionals, you can successfully sell your property and achieve your desired outcome. It’s essential to stay informed about the regulations and requirements related to non-resident property sales. With a clear plan and realistic expectations, selling your house in Alberta can be a financially rewarding experience. Working with experienced professionals and ensuring that you comply with all legal requirements is essential for a smooth and successful sale.

Estate Planning: Lawyer vs. Do-It-Yourself – Which is Better

Estate planning is important for everyone, regardless of age or the size of your estate. It’s a process of organizing your assets and taking care of your loved ones in the future. Estate planning involves drafting wills, trusts, and other legal documents. Although some might consider doing it themselves, there are several reasons why hiring an estate planning lawyer is the better option.

The Complexity of Estate Planning

Estate planning involves many legal documents, which are complex and require professional knowledge and expertise. An estate planning lawyer can provide guidance and ensure that they draft documents correctly. An experienced lawyer will assess your situation, understand your goals and needs, and create an estate plan that meets your requirements.

Mitigating Risks

Estate planning can help mitigate the risks of potential legal battles between beneficiaries. A lawyer can ensure that the estate plan adequately addresses the clause that outlines the distribution of assets.

Saving Time and Money

Estate planning can be time-consuming and costly, but a lawyer can help you save money and time in the long run. An estate planning lawyer can help you complete your wills and other legal documents much more quickly and efficiently while ensuring they consider any legal and tax implications.

Keeping Up with Legal Updates

Estate laws are constantly changing. An experienced estate planning lawyer can keep you up to date with any updates that might affect your estate plan.

Legal Protection

An Estate planning lawyer makes sure you are protected from unforeseen circumstances, such as heavy tax liabilities, breach of contract, and much more. A lawyer will ensure that the estate documents comply with the legal standards embedded by the province.

Estate planning is vital, and a mistake in this area could bring severe consequences to your beneficiaries. While doing it yourself might be the less costly option, the benefits of using an estate planning lawyer are significant. An experienced estate planning lawyer can ensure that your wishes are met, mitigate any potential risks, and take care of the complexity of the legal documents. Therefore, it could save you and your beneficiaries time and money in the long run. It’s vital that everyone should make an effort to consult and employ an estate planning lawyer to avoid any unpleasant circumstances.

If you have any questions about estate planning or if you are not sure what you need, get in touch! You can schedule a complimentary consultation with our Estates Manager who can assist with some of your initial questions. Get in touch with us today to help you with your estate planning needs.

New Year, New Business: A Comprehensive Guide to Starting a Business in Alberta

Starting a new business can be an exciting yet daunting experience. It requires a lot of planning, hard work, and dedication to make your business successful. One of the first steps to start a business in Alberta is to incorporate it. Incorporation is a legal process that provides your business with a separate legal entity from its owners, which means that your business can operate independently and have its own legal rights. In this blog post, we will discuss the process of starting a business in Alberta, including incorporation, registration, and other important aspects that you should know.

Decide on Your Business Structure

Before starting a business, you need to decide on its structure. In Alberta, you can choose from four types of business structures: sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or cooperative. Each of these structures has its own pros and cons, and choosing one that is suitable for your business will depend on factors such as your business size, ownership, and liability. If you decide to incorporate, you will need to choose between a federal or provincial corporation. A federal corporation is recognized across Canada, while a provincial corporation can do business only in Alberta.

Register Your Business Name

Once you have decided on your business structure, the next step is to choose and register your business name. Your business name will serve as your brand so it is important to choose a name that is unique and easy to remember. You can check if your desired name is available using the NUANS (Newly Upgraded Automated Name Search) system before registering it with the Alberta Corporate Registry.

Incorporation Process in Alberta

Incorporating a business in Alberta involves several steps, including the following:

1. Preparing the articles of incorporation;

2. Filing them with the Corporate Registry; and

3. Paying the fees.

The articles of incorporation contain details such as the company’s name, business purpose, and share structure. Once the articles receive approval, you will receive a certificate of incorporation. This confirms your business’s legal existence and provide you with a unique business number.

Get Required Business Licenses and Permits

Before you can operate your business, you’ll need to obtain the necessary licenses and permits. The specific requirements will depend on the nature of your business and its location. Some common permits and licenses that businesses require in Alberta include a business license, GST/HST registration, and workers’ compensation coverage.

Understand the Tax Obligations

Once your business is up and running, you’ll have to fulfill certain tax obligations. In Canada, there are various taxes businesses pay including corporate income tax, payroll taxes, and GST/HST. It is essential to understand your tax obligations and deadlines to avoid any penalties or fines.

Starting a business in Alberta requires a lot of planning and preparation. Incorporation is a crucial step that provides your business with a separate legal entity. This offers several benefits such as limited liability and access to funding. By understanding the process of starting a business in Alberta and the requirements, you can ensure that your business is set up for success from day one. If you are still unsure about the process, it may be helpful to seek the guidance of a lawyer or accountant who specializes in business incorporation.

Summit Legal Group has a corporate law team who can help guide you through the necessary requirements to set up your new business. Contact us today to let us help you start! Schedule a complimentary call with our Corporate Paralegal who can assist you with any questions you have before you begin!

New Year, New Estate Plan: Why Now is the Perfect Time to Evaluate your Estate Planning Needs

The New Year is upon us once again. With it comes the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate certain aspects of our lives. While most of us use this time to set goals and resolutions, many overlook a crucial element – estate planning. Estate planning may not be the most exciting topic, but it is essential. It secures the future of your loved ones and ensuring that you decide how you distribute your assets. In this blog post, we will discuss why the New Year is the perfect time to evaluate your estate planning needs.

Changes in Life Circumstances

One of the primary reasons to review your estate plan is if your circumstances have changed since the last time you made one. Did you get married or divorced? Or, did you have a child or adopt one? Perhaps some recent business decisions may impact your assets. Did you sell or acquire assets? All of these events may impact the way you distribute your estate and so it is imperative to update your estate plan to reflect these changes.

Tax Laws and Estate Planning

Tax laws are always evolving, which may impact your estate plan. Sometimes these changes may have an impact on how much your heirs may receive. An estate planning specialist can give you the best advice about minimizing your tax liability and maximizing the inheritance for your beneficiaries.

The Importance of Updating Your Beneficiaries

One of the simplest yet most important parts of estate planning is naming your beneficiaries. However, it is essential to ensure that your beneficiary designations are up to date. Many people forget to update their beneficiaries even after major life changes have occurred, which may lead to unintentional complications.

Ensuring Your Wishes Are Carried Out

One of the primary benefits of having a proper estate plan is the ability to have more control over what happens to your assets after you pass away. Even if you do not have substantial assets, you may still want to have control over your sentimental possessions. By putting a proper estate plan in place, you will ensure that your executor can carry out your wishes.

Protecting Your Family’s Interests

Estate planning is not only about you, it is also about your family. A proper estate plan will ensure that you protect your family’s interests and can outline them clearly. It can protect them from potential legal battles, the probate process, and provide peace of mind during a difficult time. A comprehensive estate plan can give your family the tools they need to move on from your passing with ease.

The New Year provides an excellent opportunity to evaluate your estate planning needs. Regardless of age, income, or family structure, estate planning is essential for protecting your family’s interests and ensuring your wishes are carried out. By reviewing your estate plan and updating it as necessary, you are giving yourself and your family peace of mind and security. Contact us to see how we can help ensure that you manage your assets according to your wishes and your legacy lives on as you desire.

New Year, New House – Your Guide to a Smooth Home Buying Process

young couple happy to move into new home

The New Year brings in new beginnings and resolutions. One such resolution that most of us have is to buy a new house, but the process can be daunting. Purchasing a home is an important decision, and it requires careful planning and expertise. Buying a house is not just about finding the right home; it’s about making the right financial decisions that will set you up for a secure future. In this blog post, we will cover everything you need to know about buying a house.

First Things First – Financial Planning

Before exploring the housing market, you need to analyze your finances. This involves understanding your income, expenditure, credit score, and debt. It’s best to break down your expenses and see how much of your income you can devote to home buying. It’s recommended to aim for a down payment of at least 20% of the home’s value. However, you may take advantage of first-time home buyer incentives for a lower down payment amount. A good credit score will not only assure you of loan approval but also help you secure a better interest rate. Be sure to get pre-approved for a loan before house hunting to know the amount you can afford.

House Hunting – Research and Due Diligence

House hunting can be an exciting experience, but it’s important to be realistic. Before searching, decide on the location, property size, and style that you prefer. Research the market trends and compare prices to avoid overpaying. Visit multiple homes and take note of details that may affect your future living experiences – neighbourhood, proximity to amenities, crime rate, schools, etc. While a home can look picture-perfect, it’s important to have a home inspection done to uncover any underlying problems.

Financing – The Options Available

Financing a home can be a daunting task, but there are several options available. The traditional method is to go through a mortgage lender, where you borrow money to purchase the house and pay it back with interest over a set period. Weigh the pros and cons of each before making a decision. You may want to reach out to a mortgage broker for assistance in evaluating all your lending options, understand borrowing trends and interest rates.

Closing the Deal – Legal Formalities

Closing on a house involves a lot of paperwork and legal formalities. This involves verifying the seller’s title to the property, settling fees, finalizing the mortgage agreement, and clearing any contingencies. Before signing any agreement, it’s important to have a real estate lawyer review the clauses and ensure that all conditions are favourable. Closing can take time and patience, so it’s best to stay on top of deadlines and have answers to any questions you may have.

Moving In – Setting Up Your New Home

Congratulations on closing the deal! This is a momentous occasion and marks the start of a new chapter in your life. Now it’s time to set up your new home. This involves packing, transporting, and unpacking your belongings. It’s an excellent time to set up utilities, such as electricity, gas, and water, and to get familiar with your new community. Be sure to organize everything to avoid any unnecessary stress.

Buying a house can seem like a daunting task, but by taking the proper steps, it can be a life-changing and rewarding experience. Ensure that you analyze your finances first, research the market, and explore various financing options. Review every legal document with a real estate lawyer before signing and close the deal on time. Finally, make your new house a home by staying organized and settling in comfortably.

We hope this blog post has given you a better understanding of what to expect when buying a house. Best of luck in your house hunting and remember to take it one step at a time.

When it’s time to look for a real estate lawyer to assist you with the legal closing of your transaction, reach out to us and we would love to help!

Essential Elements to Include in Your Estate Plan

Death is an inevitable part of life, and we don’t like to think about it much. However, it is essential to think ahead and plan for the future, especially by preparing an estate plan. It’s a critical document that ensures your last wishes are met and helps to prevent chaos and confusion among your loved ones after your passing. An estate plan will divide your property and assets, designate guardians for your minor children, and even help with tax planning. In this article, we’ll discuss the essential elements that must be included in your estate plan.

A Will:

A will is a legal document that specifies how your assets and property should be distributed after your death. If you don’t have a will, the court will decide who gets what, which may not be in accordance with your wishes. Your will must specify the distribution of your assets, the person responsible for executing your will, and the amount of inheritance for each beneficiary.

Enduring Power of Attorney and Personal Directive:

An enduring power of attorney and personal directive designates a person to manage your finances and healthcare decisions if you become incapacitated and cannot make decisions for yourself. An enduring power of attorney will allow your designated representative to access your accounts, pay bills, and make financial decisions on your behalf. A personal directive will allow your representative to make medical decisions for you if you are not able to.

 

Guardianship:

Designating a guardian for your minor children is another crucial element of estate planning. If you have minor children and both parents pass away without naming a guardian, the court will appoint someone. This may be a different person altogether, so it’s essential to ensure that your wishes are met. You’ll want to consider factors such as age, location, and values when choosing a guardian.

 

Beneficiary Designations:

Life insurance policies, registered investments, and other accounts require beneficiaries, and these designations must be updated regularly. Make sure you list primary and alternate beneficiaries, and check with your retirement account custodian to ensure your designations are updated and accurate.

 

Digital Estate Plan:

As our lives become increasingly digitized, it’s critical to include a digital estate plan that covers things like social media profiles, online banking, and other online accounts. You may want to consider designating a separate executor for your digital assets, leaving instructions for how to access and handle these accounts.

 

When it comes to estate planning, everyone’s circumstances are unique, so it’s essential to talk to a lawyer or estate planning professional who can help you create an estate plan that meets your specific needs. While drafting an estate plan may seem overwhelming, it’s an essential step to take that can provide peace of mind for you and your loved ones. By following the steps discussed in the article, you can create a comprehensive estate plan that helps to ensure your last wishes are met.

Reach out to us today and let Summit Legal Group guide you in the estate planning process. 

AUTHOR

Craig Gorham is a Certified Executor Advisor at Summit Legal Group, guiding clients through the Estate Administration process with compassion, empathy and a wealth of specialized knowledge. Craig can be reached directly at 587-393-2069 or craig@summitlegalgroup.ca.

Summit Legal Group wins the 2024 Top Choice Award for Wills and Estates Law Firm!

UPDATE (January 11, 2024)

We are pleased to announce that Summit Legal Group WON the 2024 TOP CHOICE AWARD for WILLS & ESTATES LAW FIRM!

Check out all the 2024 Winners here.

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Summit Legal Group is pleased to announce that once again, we have been selected by the prestigious Top Choice Awards as a nominee for the “Top Choice Wills & Estates Law Firm” of 2024!

This nomination is a testament to all the hard work and dedication of our team, providing high-quality legal services in wills and estates. Each of our lawyers and our Certified Executor Advisor are committed to providing our clients with top-notch legal expertise and advice. Our lively and engaging staff are passionate about helping clients navigate estate planning, trusts, and other services related to wills. With our experienced team behind us, we feel confident that we can achieve this great honour!

We invite you to join us in celebrating this incredible opportunity by casting your vote today to help make us YOUR TOP CHOICE!

VOTE HERE: https://topchoiceawards.com/vote?survey_id=V0uE4zGn

But wait, there’s more! By simply voting, you automatically enter a draw with a chance to win one of four incredible $500 cash prizes generously offered by Top Choice Awards!

Stay tuned for further updates and exciting developments on our journey to victory!