Chown Cairns LLP and Lancaster Brooks & Welch LLP to merge January 1, 2022

It is with tremendous excitement that we announce that two of Niagara’s oldest and most prestigious Law Firms are joining ranks to gain strength with combined talents and synergies to better position ourselves for important legal service to Niagara residents.

The partners of Lancaster Brooks & Welch LLP and Chown Cairns LLP have agreed to become Lancaster Chown & Welch LLP effective January 1, 2022, which starts our 140th year offering legal advice in Niagara.

Client focused and future driven, our goals include exploring and expanding our legal practice offerings and attracting talented young associate lawyers and legal staff, while responding to our clients’ needs in dynamic new ways.

 

“This merger enables exciting opportunities for us to expand our legal services that will benefit our clients for decades to come”.                               

Michael Mann – Senior Partner Lancaster Brooks & Welch LLP

 

In the coming weeks there will be many more details to share as we move toward merging our two Firms. Until January 1st, 2022, we will operate as separate firms.

 

 “Clients can expect from Lancaster Chown & Welch a meaningful experience with the knowledge and confidence that we put their needs first. Our track record of success includes service, experience, personal attention, advocacy, and trust.”                                 

Roseanne Trivieri – Senior Partner Chown Cairns LLP

 

We remain committed to serving this great region with sound legal advice. Inquiries about the merger may be directed to gadam@lbwlawyers.com or veronicas@chownlaw.com.

When employees should hire an employment lawyer

If you have recently been fired or feel you are experiencing discrimination in your workplace, you may need to want to seek advisement from an employment lawyer.

Common employment matters that benefit from the advice of a lawyer include wrongful dismissals, terminations, severance package reviews and discrimination cases.

If one of the above employment matters is currently affecting you, solicit the advice of a lawyer.

Ontario Employee Protections

In Ontario, you are protected under two set of laws: the Employment Standards Act of Ontario and the common law. There are standard provisions that an employee must be given under law but there may be other entitlements that only expert legal advisement can unearth.

Wrongful Dismissal

How do you know if you have a case for wrongful dismissal? Under Ontario employment law, firing an employee without ‘reason’ or ‘cause’ is not considered wrongful dismissal. Employers are only required to provide reasonable notice and, potentially, severance pay. If you feel that your employer failed to provide reasonable notice of termination, you may have a case for wrongful dismissal and should seek the advice of a lawyer.

Severance Package Reviews

Upon dismissal, you should be provided with a severance or termination package from your employer. Without the guarantee of a new position in the near future, it is important to ensure that your severance or termination package is the best it can be. Have an employment lawyer review the package to determine if it is fair or not. Under the common law, many employees are likely entitled to more than the statutory minimums outlined in the Employment Standards Act.

Age or Sexual Discrimination

If you have been sexually discriminated against in your workplace or have been discriminated against because of your age, you should seek the legal advice of an employment lawyer.  You are legally protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code that your employer cannot make employment decisions based on the grounds of sex or age. A lawyer will be able to assist in filing a human rights complaint.

Hire an Employment Lawyer

The employment lawyers at LCW have experience in finding resolutions to employment and labour related disputes. Book a consultation with one of our Niagara employment lawyers to have your employment matter reviewed.

The Importance of Estate Planning for the Millennial Generation

If you were to ask a millennial to make a list of their life plans or priorities, it would likely include such things as educational and career accomplishments, vacation experiences and building relationships. Graduating, landing their desired job, paying off their debts, buying a home and traveling are likely to be high on that list. Estate planning, on the other hand, is likely to be near the very bottom, if it were to appear at all. This is unsurprising, given that the millennial generation is experiencing a delayed path to achieving traditional life milestones, and thus, in many cases, significant asset accumulation. However, a lack of emphasis on the importance of estate planning, and a lack of knowledge of the many benefits that can be gained from setting up an estate plan are likely also contributing factors.

What Happens if You Don’t Have a Will?

For one, Part II of Ontario’s Succession Law Reform Act, which governs how your assets are distributed if you die “intestate” (without a Last Will), provides a very rigid formula that is based on traditional societal values. These rules can be summarized as follows:

  1. If the Deceased has a spouse (common law spouses are not included) and no issue, the spouse is entitled to the entirety of the estate.
  2. If the Deceased has a spouse and issue, the spouse is entitled to the first $200,000.00 of the estate, and the remainder is divided evenly between the spouse and any issue.
  3. If the Deceased has no spouse and no issue, the estate goes to the Deceased’s surviving parents, equally.
  4. If there are no surviving parents, the estate goes to the Deceased’s siblings equally (and if a sibling has predeceased, that sibling’s share goes to their respective children).
  5. If there are no siblings, the estate goes to the Deceased’s nephews and nieces equally.
  6. If there are no nephews or nieces, the estate goes to the next of kin of equal degree of consanguinity.
  7. If there are no next of kin, the estate escheats to the Crown.

When you begin to apply these rules, it becomes clear that for many millennials relying on the rules of intestacy means having their estate divided in a way that does not accord with their wishes. For example, the millennial generation are proving to get married later in life, and less frequently. Yet, unless you’re married, if you die without a Will your spouse will get nothing. Further, regardless of your marital status, creating an estate plan allows you to make specific bequests of your assets – of both sentimental and financial value – to the family, friends, and/or charities of your choosing.

Advantages of Estate Planning

Another advantage of creating an estate plan is that it provides you with the opportunity to plan for times of incapacity. As young, healthy individuals, living busy lives, incapacity is likely far from the front of the mind for many millennials. However, as unfortunate as it may be, accidents or unexpected illness can occur at any time. As a generation that is taking time to travel, adventure, and explore the world before entering the job market, creating a power of attorney allows you to appoint someone to care for both you and your affairs in the event that such an event were to occur.

Lastly, for a generation that is increasingly tech-savvy and active on social media, creating an estate plan is uniquely valuable because it allows you to document your intentions with respect your digital assets. In your Will, you can outline who is entitled to receive any online assets that have financial value – like Paypal accounts or loyalty rewards programs – and also how those digital assets with personal or sentimental value – like Facebook or Instagram – are to be managed and by whom. Stating your wishes in this regard can help to instruct someone who otherwise may not know how to access your accounts, and also works to eliminate conflicts that might otherwise arise among family members who disagree on how to manage them.

Understandably, setting up an estate plan is not naturally priority number one for the millennial generation. However, with an aging population, it is inevitable that there will be a significant wealth transfer between baby boomers and millennials for years to come. Thus, while this article provides just a few examples of the benefits of creating an estate plan for the millennial generation, the importance of doing so is only going to increase rapidly over time.

 

Why you should consider a professional home inspection

Real estate purchases are often one of the most expensive transactions someone will make throughout the duration of their life. Due to this fact, it is not always an easy process and can be intimidating for those who are purchasing a home.

One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself financially is to have a professional home inspection completed on the property.

You should consider a professional home inspection whether you are buying, selling, or remortgaging your home. All of these transactions rely on the market and the condition of your home, something that is not always what it appears to the untrained eye.

Here are some of the reasons why a professional home inspection may be the best decision you make.

Protecting Your Real Estate Purchase

If you are ready to purchase a home, it is likely that you have been saving for many years and have worked hard to get your finances in order. That’s why it is extremely important to make sure you get the most for your hard-earned money and have a professional home inspection completed before you sign the papers.

Lower Your Risk For Unexpected Repairs and Surprises

A home inspection will uncover some of the unexpected issues and necessary repairs that you may need to make either now or further down the road. This will also increase buyer confidence if you are selling your home, as potential buyers are more likely to be willing to make the purchase if they know that they won’t be sinking a significant amount of money into those unexpected repairs.

A More Accurate Value For Your Home

If you are planning on selling or remortgaging your home it is important to have an accurate valuation of what you will realistically be able to get. Many mortgage companies might even ask you to provide details of this inspection to take into consideration. The inspection could reveal damages that bring down the total value of your property, which could disrupt your plans, or it could indicate a higher value if your assets are in good condition. From a buyers perspective, an inspection report can provide leverage in your price negotiation.

Hire a Real Estate Lawyer to Make a Confident Decision

When you are buying or selling a home, the real estate lawyers at LCW will help make sure you are protected throughout the transaction. They are highly experienced and provide the guidance required to protect you from costly mistakes. Do not take a chance on your future, and make sure that this major transaction is in the best hands possible.

Here’s why you need a will in place

Regardless of your stage of life, you should be considering estate planning measures. While planning for your death is an uncomfortable topic, ensuring that your estate is taken care of can relieve potential financial, administrative and legal consequences for your family or loved ones.

A will allows you to control the disposition of your assets. The instructions that you leave in a legally binding will, will ensure that your intentions for your assets are followed.

How estates are divided without a will in place

If you die without a will in Ontario, the law says that you have died “intestate.” This means that the Ontario Succession Law Reform Act will govern how your assets and property are divided. The law affords a hierarchy of how your property will be divided regardless of your true wishes.

Benefits of having a will in place

You choose the executor of your estate

The executor of your estate, also known in Ontario as your personal representative, is the person you choose to carry out the wishes of your will. This person will ensure that your personal affairs are in order and may be responsible for:

  • Funeral arrangements
  • Your banking, credit cards, assets and debts
  • Your income tax returns
  • Your asset distribution

You direct how your assets are distributed

A will allows you to draw clear intentions of how you want your assets distributed. This process avoids potential litigious measures by legally binding who will inherit your money and property when you die.

You select a guardian of minor children

If you have minor children that depend on you for support, you are able to name a guardian of choice in your will. This is not legally binding, rather a directive for the court, and a request that will factor into a court’s decision.

You can reduce estate taxes

Taxes will be deducted from your estate after your death. The Ontario tax administration is charged on the total value of your assets: real estate, investments, vehicles, bank accounts, intangible property, life insurance etc. A large benefit of estate planning is that your lawyer can direct you on how to minimize the taxes on your estate.

Legal expenses and longer process to settle your estate

If you do not have a will your estate will incur avoidable legal expenses and timelines. There are many legal ways to reduce your expenses in relation to probate costs, administration costs, trustee/guardian expenses and taxes. Without a will in place, the economic fate of your assets is left with the government and law to decide. Simply put, you need a will. To begin the estate planning process obtain legal advice from a Niagara Estates lawyer from the Niagara law firm of Lancaster Chown & Welch.

How to prepare to meet with a Family Law lawyer in Niagara

The process of separation is emotionally charged and often feels overwhelming for families. In the course of negotiating a separation agreement, you may need to deal with a number of legal issues including parenting arrangements, spousal and child support claims, insurance provisions and property division.

Once you have chosen the lawyer you will work with, how do you prepare for your first meeting with your Niagara family law lawyer? What should you bring to your appointment, what information should you be prepared to provide and what questions should you ask?

Compile important information about your situation

In order to compile your case and provide legal advice, your family lawyer will need to know specific details about your situation.

Income and Expenses

It will assist your lawyer to know your income and the income of your spouse over the past three years and to provide information about your monthly expenses and financial needs.

Assets and Debts

You should be ready to discuss the assets and debts that you have and that you share with your spouse. These assets may include real estate, personal property (contents of your home, vehicles etc.), bank accounts and retirement funds. You should also prepare a list of your liabilities such as mortgages, lines of credit, loans and credit cards.

Marital and Family History

It will help your family lawyer if you have prepared a summary of your marital and family history. The summary would cover information about you, your spouse, your marriage or common law relationship, you children, your employment and the employment of your spouse, and the education and work experience of both of you during the relationship.

Be Prepared to Discuss

What arrangements should be made for your children?

  • who will your children live with, what time will they spend with each parent, how will important decisions be made for the children, who pays child support and what support should be paid?

What are my needs?

  • what are my financial needs, do I want to stay in the family home, what assets do I want to retain, what debts will I be responsible for?

What will be the biggest issues that you and your spouse must sort out?

Does my spouse have a lawyer, will my spouse be prepared to negotiate a separation agreement or do we have to go to court?

Questions to ask your Niagara Family Lawyer

What is the best process for me and what is the estimate time this will take? What is the difference between a separation agreement and a court order? What resource are available to help me through my case? Are there things I can do to protect myself and to assist with my case? What are the likely costs of my case and will my spouse pay any of my legal costs?

The Family Law lawyers at Lancaster Chown & Welch in Niagara can assist you with their extensive experience and effective representation.

Types of Personal Injury Claims

If you’ve suffered an injury due to the wrong doing of another party, you may have grounds for a  claim for damages.  In Ontario courts, damages is usually a claim for money. Succumbing to a personal injury affects you both physically and financially and often emotionally.

If this has happened to you or you feel that the compensation offered through insurance is insufficient, you need to hire a personal injury lawyer to fight for the compensation that you deserve.

There are a wide variety of types of personal injury claims and it is important to be aware of the most common:

Car Accidents

Car accidents are a common cause for personal injury compensation claims. Though all drivers in Ontario are required to carry auto insurance for their vehicle, this insurance may only initially cover damage to your vehicle. If you’re badly injured and another driver was at fault, you may require a personal injury lawyer to sue additional compensation.

There are many different types of wrongful acts that can lead to a car accident, including: speeding, distracted driving, failure to stop and driving under the influence.

If you feel you have not been adequately compensated, talk to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice claims result from an injury suffered while under the care of a health professional, such as a doctor or nurse. These claims can be complex and you should speak with a lawyer with experience in medical malpractice claims if you believe you have suffered an injury during medical treatment.

Some examples of medical malpractice are: mistakes in treatment; improper diagnosis; treatment against a patient’s wishes.

Slip and Fall

A slip and fall can result in long-term or serious injury. In Ontario, property owners must maintain property that is accessible to the public. If they do not, they are liable to a personal injury compensation claim.

Slip and fall accidents can result from: snow or ice buildup on sidewalks, poor lighting, uneven or cracked pavement, broken handrails and sinkholes. No matter whether the property owner is a homeowner, business owner or the local government, they’re liable for injuries caused by failing to properly maintain and safeguard their property.

Dog Bite

Dog owners are responsible for injuries inflicted by their dogs. These injuries can be physical, mental or psychological. It is important for you to identify the dog’s owner and to seek medical attention as soon as possible following a dog bite. The dog owner may be subject to criminal or by-law violations, but they are also liable for your personal injury compensation.

If you believe you’ve suffered a personal injury due to the wrongful acts of another party, contact the experienced injury law team at Chown Cairns. Their local Niagara lawyers have a wide array of experience and expertise when it comes to personal injury compensation claims.

​​The process of litigation in Ontario Small Claims Court

Litigation refers to legal disputes between two or more parties when the dispute is non-criminal in nature. In Ontario, litigation follows a well-defined process. A litigation lawyer will be well-versed in this process, seen below, and their role within each stage.

Determination of jurisdiction

Claims of $25,000 or less are handled in Ontario Small Claims Court. Claims for more than $25,000 are started in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. A lawyer will advise you on the amount to make your claim for and help prepare you for your dispute based on the jurisdiction.

Statement of claim

A statement of claim is made by the injured party, or plaintiff, and outlines the facts of the dispute and why they believe they are legally entitled to compensation. A litigation lawyer will be aware of the rules surrounding a statement of claim, such as time limitations. Your lawyer will also provide advice about your claim and draft the statement of claim document.

Statement of defence and counterclaim

The person served with the statement of claim, the defendant, has a limited amount of time to respond to the claim with a statement of defence. This statement will outline why the defendant believes they do not have to compensate the plaintiff; it may also include a counterclaim for compensation. If no statement of defence is made, the plaintiff can ask the court to find the defendant in default and to render judgment.

Reply and defence to counterclaim

The plaintiff and their lawyer may respond to the allegations made in the statement of defence and must issue a defence to any counterclaim made by the plaintiff.

Exchange a List of Proposed Witnesses and Document Briefs

Evidence must be presented at your trial to prove your claim. Evidence may include, documents, records or written statements. You are able to summons the authors of said documents, or summon witnesses with personal, first hand knowledge of the facts to support your claim. A Summons to Witness form will need to filed at the Small Claims Court office, there is a fee to issue. Your civil litigation lawyer, will correctly file the associated documents and witness forms.  

Motions

Motions can actually occur through the litigation process. Motions are requests for rulings from a judge on preliminary and procedural issues, such as the inclusion of a certain document or line of questioning. Your civil or commercial litigation lawyer will file motions on your behalf as part of your agreed upon litigation strategy.

Mandatory mediation

(only required for litigation filed in Toronto, Windsor or Ottawa)

The parties meet with a neutral mediator who tries to help resolve the issues in the case prior to requiring a formal trial. The mediation is confidential and if the mediation does not resolve the case, any discussions or settlement offers cannot be referenced during the rest of the litigation process. Your litigation lawyer will guide you through the mediation proceedings. In litigation filed outside Toronto, Windsor or Ottawa, parties can agree to conduct a mediation if they believe it is of benefit before trial.

Pretrial conference

If no settlement is reached and the above steps are complete, a party can “set the matter down for trial” by requesting the issue be placed on the trial list. After this, the parties must attend a pre-trial. A litigation lawyer will file the necessary documents on your behalf that enact the pre-trial and that are required for the pre-trial. At the pre-trial, a judge will hear statements on behalf of each party and help to try to reach a settlement. The judge is also allowed to provide their opinion of how the case would be decided if it reaches trial, though this is not binding. At the conclusion of the pre-trial, the judge can set the date of trial and complete a pre-trial report.

Trial

Litigation rarely reaches this stage due to the expense involved to the parties. During the trial, both parties provide evidence and witnesses. At the conclusion, a judge will make a binding decision. This decision may be appealed by either of the parties. A litigation lawyer will gather evidence, make statements, examine and cross-examine witnesses on your behalf during the trial. They will also advise you on whether or not to file an appeal at the conclusion of the trial.

It is rare for litigation to reach trial, let alone be ended by a decision at trial. A settlement is typically reached during one of the proceeding stages. Having an experienced litigator on your side will help you best present your side of the dispute, giving you the best chance of settling favourably.

You’ve Been Charged With a Criminal Offense. Now What?

The criminal justice system in Ontario can be complex and confusing, especially for those charged with a criminal offense for the first time. Whether you’re looking to be prepared in case you’re charged or have been charged, this post will help guide you through the initial stages.

For most offenses, especially serious offenses, the police will both arrest and charge you. If you are arrested, the police will read you your rights, and take you to the police station to be fingerprinted and photographed.

You have a right to speak with a criminal lawyer

And to receive legal advice. You should consult a criminal lawyer as soon as you are able to. In some circumstances, you will only be charged and not arrested. If so, you will be given a date to report to a police station for fingerprinting and photographing and a date to appear at court to set a trial date.

Ontario Criminal Offense Types

Summary offense: 

  • Less serious
  • Trial will be in a provincial court before a judge (without a jury)

Indictable offense:

  • Serious crimes
  • Accused may be able to choose which court will hear the case, including whether there will be a jury

Bail in Ontario

Bail allows those charged and arrested to be released from police custody, usually by paying money as a deposit to the court and with certain conditions. Those detained for a criminal offence have a right to a bail hearing within one day. The judge at a bail hearing will consider many factors when deciding whether an individual is fit to be released from custody. These factors include the seriousness of the offence, past criminal records and whether or not the individual is a danger to the public.

You should always be represented by a criminal defence lawyer at a bail hearing.

 First Appearance Court

The “Crown” refers to the government lawyers who will prosecute criminal cases. It is the responsibility of the Crown to fulfill disclosure – the sharing of what information or evidence they will be using to prosecute your criminal case. Typically this is done at your first appearance in court.

At the date of your first appearance in criminal court, the Court will have a docket that will list all the individuals required to attend that day and their charges. When your name is called, you will go to the front of the courtroom to address the judge or justice of the peace. You will be asked to confirm your name and if you understand what you are charged with. You will then be asked what you want to do with your case.

From here, there are options about what happens next and each option will chart a different course for what happens after this first appearance in court. For example, you can tell the judge you’re seeking more information from the Crown or that you’d like to have a trial (in which case a trial date will be set) or you tell the judge you plan to plead guilty to your charges.

There are many factors and variables in every criminal offense charge, case and trial. You should receive advice from a criminal lawyer throughout the process to ensure you achieve the best possible outcome

How to mitigate risk when buying a home

Buying a home is a stressful and risky process, this feeling is heightened for first-time home buyers. Purchasing a home is a highly contracted process; risks lie in fees that you aren’t legally required to pay and a potential misunderstanding of your legal rights or obligations.

The best way to mitigate risk when buying a home is to hire a real estate lawyer. Your lawyers legal advisement will ensure your best interests are taken care of.  

Hire a lawyer to mitigate financial implications in your contracts

When you purchase a house or condo in a new development, many incentives may be offered to you. Often, these incentives aren’t as beneficial to you as advertised. This also applies to potential hidden fees, associated with new build homes, including installation costs and warranties. Before you sign a contract to purchase a new build home, ensure that your Niagara real estate lawyer reviews the agreement of purchase and sale in order to identify any hidden fees or extra costs associated with the build of the home. Your lawyer will ensure that the price you agreed to pay, is the price you pay.

Hire a lawyer for purchasing flexibility

A lawyer can provide you with flexibility and leverage when you make your offer. Many buyers benefit from advisement on their purchase offer for instance, your lawyer can ensure that the offer is conditional based on your financing. This gives you the ability to opt out of the deal if you do not get the financing that you want and then wish to withdraw your offer.

Hire a lawyer to review your Agreement of Purchase and Sale

Your real estate lawyer will also be responsible for reading over your Agreement of Purchase and sale for your home to ensure that it meets your needs and your wants. They will also ensure that you as the buyer fully understand your legal rights and obligations before you agree to them.

Post-Acceptance Administrative Tasks

Once you’ve made an offer and your offer has been accepted, real estate lawyers will then perform some administrative tasks for you. Firstly, they’ll make sure that the registered owner of the property is the one completing the sale. Then, they will ensure that the taxes and bills for the home have been paid up, so that you are not responsible for those payments. Then they will transfer the billing information with utility companies. They will also ensure the property complies with city zoning requirements and will do a survey of the property to ensure that the home is accurately described in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale.

Purchasing a home is one of the largest transactions a Canadian will make in their lifetime. Ensure you do it right and mitigate the risks involved in buying a home by contacting a St. Catharines real estate lawyer today. Click below to learn more about our Real Estate law practice.