No one likes to confront their mortality. For this reason, many avoid estate planning because they find the subject uncomfortable. In reality, however, estate planning can provide peace of mind.
You might think estate planning is merely about distributing your assets, but it’s about ensuring your final wishes are honoured, protecting your loved ones and securing your legacy. In the province of British Columbia, having a well-thought-out estate plan is crucial for ensuring your assets are managed and distributed according to your wishes after you pass away.
Below, we dive deeper into the importance of estate planning and explain why it should be a priority for all.
Real estate disputes can often be complex, stressful and worse of all, the consequences may be financially devastating for all parties involved. That’s why it’s important to seek legal advice from a real estate law office such as Bernard Lau and Co. to ensure that you are aware of your legal obligations, risks and to ensure that your legal rights are protected in any dispute.
Hello there, future homeowner! Are you ready to dive into the exciting world of real estate in the charming Richmond community?
As you navigate the world of real estate, we’re here to equip you with essential tips that will empower you to make confident decisions throughout the home-buying process. Here are some professional insights and practical advice to help you confidently navigate your real estate journey.
Experience and Reputation
Our team of experienced legal professionals at Bernard Lau and Co. has in-depth knowledge and a proven track record of success in handling real estate related and defamation civil disputes including highly publicized victories at trial as reported in the Vancouver Sun, Ming Pao, CTV News and various other media outlets. Whether you are facing a property dispute, a breach of contract problem, or defamation matter, our expertise covers various aspects of civil law. At Bernard Lau and Co., we are committed to guiding you through the complexities of your case, providing clear communication, and keeping you informed at every step of the process. We advise you on every stage of your case all the way to trial if necessary, but will also consider the most efficient means of resolving your dispute, including negotiating and positioning your case for a favourable settlement.
Do you have a legal problem? Are you and your family having disputes relating to property or other matters? When legal disputes arise, a civil litigation lawyer’s role is to help resolve the dispute, whether it’s by private out-of-court settlement or by taking the matter to the Courts if necessary. Not every dispute requires the Court to resolve the issue, but a good litigation lawyer can assist you to navigate the legal process and the Courts on your behalf to achieve a favourable result that may not require a long, costly trial. As Sun Tzu once wrote: “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” At Bernard Lau and Co., we utilize a diverse array of legal options and tactics, not just trial, to help resolve your legal issue. Below, we’ll explore what civil litigation lawyers do in more detail and the stages of a typical litigation matter.
What Is Civil Litigation?
Civil litigation refers to resolving non-criminal disputes through the court system. These disputes can encompass many issues, such as contract disputes, personal injury claims, property disputes, employment disagreements and more. Civil litigation lawyers represent clients on either side of a dispute, guiding them through the legal process and advocating for their best interests.
At Bernard Lau and Co. we have extensive experience assisting clients on resolving real estate disputes, defamation and general contracts matters.
Case Assessment and Investigation
First, your lawyer conducts a thorough assessment of your case. They meticulously examine your claim’s facts, evidence and legal merits. That may involve reviewing documents, conducting legal research, interviewing witnesses and consulting with relevant experts. This comprehensive assessment allows your civil litigation lawyer to formulate a strategic plan and assess your case’s strengths and weaknesses. It also helps them decide if your case is worth taking through trial, or through alternate means like mediation or arbitration.
Pleadings and Pre-trial Proceedings
Once the initial assessment is complete, and if it’s decided to proceed in court, civil litigation lawyers draft and file the necessary legal documents to initiate (or defend) the lawsuit. These documents, known as pleadings, typically consist of a plaintiff’s notice of civil claim and a defendant’s response to civil claim. Your lawyer ensures that the pleadings accurately reflect your position and lays the groundwork for further legal arguments. At this stage, lawyers play a crucial role in negotiating settlements and resolving disputes out of court since many cases often settle once the pleadings are filed.
Discovery and Fact-Finding
During the discovery phase, parties exchange information and evidence. This process helps each side understand the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing case. Civil litigation lawyers analyze the evidence, cross-examine the opposing side and prepare you for your own cross-examination. Discovery is one of the most important stages of litigation, as your lawyer can uncover crucial details, identify key witnesses and gather critical evidence and admissions during this phase that can ultimately persuade the other side to settle the case in your favour or bolster your case for trial.
Trial and Advocacy
Cases may often proceed to trial if the dispute remains unresolved through pre-trial proceedings or alternative dispute resolution. At trial, a civil litigation lawyer’s role is to advocate for your interests in the courtroom. They present evidence, cross-examine witnesses and make compelling legal arguments on your behalf with the ultimate aim to persuade the judge that your position is the correct one..
Lawyers are also responsible for post-trial proceedings such as calculating trial costs, recovery of judgment and other post-trial matters that need to be dealt with after the trial has concluded.If you are dissatisfied with the outcome, your civil litigation lawyer can file an appeal, requesting a higher court to review the case for any errors in law that the trial judge may have made. Your appeal lawyer can assess the merits of the appeal, prepare appellate briefs, make oral arguments and advocate for you before the appellate court.
Your Civil Litigation Lawyer in Richmond and Metro Vancouver
The role of a civil litigation attorney involves a diverse array of responsibilities. It requires a strong comprehension of the legal framework, the Supreme Court Rules and a tactical methodology to address disputes effectively. Not all disputes need to be resolved at trial. If your litigation lawyer has prepared effectively to make a strong case for settlement in your favour, you may be able to achieve a favourable settlement outcome without the costs, stress and uncertainty of trial.
At Bernard Lau and Co., our lawyers have extensive litigation and courtroom trial experience, including high-profile successful trial outcomes as reported in the media. However, we have also settled cases with favourable outcomes for our clients on the strength of the extensive preparation that we do on our clients’ behalf. We have the knowledge and experience to craft a comprehensive legal plan tailored to your unique situation.. Our team prioritizes your needs and interests, ensuring they are at the forefront of every strategy.
The content on this website is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice or an opinion of any kind. Users of this website are advised to seek specific legal advice by contacting members of Bernard Lau and Co. (or their own legal counsel) regarding any specific legal issues. Bernard Lau and Co. does not warrant or guarantee the quality, accuracy or completeness of any information on this website and should not be relied upon as being proper, accurate, timely or fit for any particular individual’s own circumstances other than for educational purposes.
Accessing or using this website does not create a lawyer-client relationship. Although your use of the website may facilitate access to or communications with members of Bernard Lau and Co. via e-mail transmissions or otherwise via the website, receipt of any such communications or transmissions by any member of Bernard Lau and Co. does not create a lawyer-client relationship. Bernard Lau and Co. does not guarantee the security or confidentiality of any communications made by e-mail or otherwise through this website.
Did you know that the name of an owner of a property you see on a title search may not actually be the true owner? This can be accomplished by a legal mechanism called a ‘bare trust’ and reflected in a legal document known as a ‘bare trust agreement’.
A bare trust is a legal arrangement in which a trustee, an agent or nominee of the true owner, holds property or assets on a beneficiary’s behalf. The trustee usually has limited control over the property and must follow the beneficiary’s instructions regarding its management, typically acting only as a custodian with no ownership rights or major decision-making authority. The beneficiary is the true owner who owns the property or asset and any income generated from it. Bare trust agreements are used for various purposes, such as holding assets for minors or individuals unable to manage their affairs, or even for privacy reasons although nowadays there are more disclosure requirements as a result of the Land Owner Transparency Act and its various filing requirements.
When to Use a Bare Trust Agreement
Bare trust agreements have been commonly used for:
- Real estate transactions where the buyer wants to remain anonymous on title. The buyer can create a bare trust and appoint a trustee to hold the property in their name. The buyer remains the trust’s beneficiary, and the trustee holds the legal title to the property but has no beneficial interest in it. However, with the introduction of the Land Owner Transparency Registry, all trusts nowadays must disclose the true beneficial owners and whether an owner is holding property in trust, so it is becoming more difficult to hide true ownership with a bare trust but a standard title search will often not disclose the trust relationship.
- Saving on probate fees for estate planning to transfer a property to beneficiaries under a Will without going through probate. The trustee holds a property in trust with a right of survivorship to avoid probate fees by way of transmission of survivorship, and then distributes the property to the beneficiaries named in the Will. The bare trust agreement can help determine the Willmaker’s intentions and make it clear that the joint tenant trustee holds title in name only.
Real Estate Lawyers in Vancouver
Are you looking to prepare a bare trust agreement for your situation? There are significant legal, tax and filing implications for bare trust agreements so get legal and accounting/tax advice before you decide to enter into a bare trust agreement. The knowledgeable real estate lawyers at Bernard Lau and Co. have extensive experience in real estate law. We can provide guidance on the legal implications and benefits of setting up a bare trust agreement, ensuring that it is properly drafted and executed to meet your situation.
Buying a home can be an exciting yet daunting process. As a home buyer, you want to make the best decision while understanding your rights under the law. The real estate market in British Columbia is dynamic, and it’s important to have the support of an experienced real estate lawyer. They will keep you updated on amendments that govern the buying process. One recent amendment of note was made to the Home Buyer Rescission/Protection Period.
Starting in 2023, home buyers have the right to cancel a contract within 3 business days after an offer is accepted, even if no subject-clauses are in the contract. If they choose to do so, they will need to pay a 0.25% charge to the seller, which can be deducted from the deposit.
Home Buyer Rescission/Protection Period
On January 3rd, 2023, the BC Provincial Government put in effect amendments to the Home Buyer Protection Period that allows persons purchasing residential properties a mandatory three business days to withdraw from a contract regarding most real estate purchasing contracts, including detached houses, town houses, and condo apartments. It gives home buyers a “cooling off” period for whatever reason they need before they are bound to the contract. These reasons may include an opportunity to conduct their due diligence, such as consulting with their real estate lawyer, or just simply to ‘sleep on it’ and to evaluate if the purchase is ideal for them after the initial rush of excitement. It also allows you, the buyer, to make arrangements to have the property inspected and source financing although traditional subject-to clauses can also be used to achieve this.
If, after three business days, you decide to rescind the contract of purchase and sale, you will have to pay the seller a recession fee of 0.25% of the purchase price of the property. If you already paid the deposit, the 0.25% recession fee would be paid to the seller from the deposit, and the remainder of the deposit must be paid back to you in a timely manner. The new amendment was designed to offer some protection to home buyers from being coerced into making a decision too quickly especially in hot market, while the rescission fee also mitigates against frivolous offers for home sellers.
The home buyer protection period supplements but does not replace traditional protections such as subject-clauses. While the 3-day cooling period can grant some peace of mind when making one of the biggest financial decisions of your life, it is not the only legal tool available for home buyers to consider in purchasing a home. In some cases, other legal options are available which may protect your legal rights just as well without the costly rescission fee that accompanies this cooling clause. We recommend that you consult with your real estate lawyer or legal professional to ensure you clearly understand your rights under the revised home buyer protection period.
Your Real Estate Lawyer in British Columbia
Real estate transactions are complex and involve a significant amount of paperwork and legalities. The experienced real estate lawyers at Bernard Lau & Co. can help you navigate the process of buying a home while protecting your interests and ensuring you understand your legal rights.
Complete our client contact form or call 604.285.5240 to schedule a consultation.
Buying property represents a major milestone in many people’s lives and can often symbolize stability and security. Property ownership often brings a sense of pride and accomplishment, provides a space you can call your own and can represent a significant investment in your future.
However, property owners must be mindful of title fraud. The recent high profile news reports of fraudsters stealing homes in Toronto and in BC have caused much anxiety to homeowners everywhere.
So what is title fraud? Title fraud can mean many things, but in general, it is a type of fraud that typically involves the fraudulent sale of a home or refinancing of a property that does not belong to the fraudster who poses as the real owner. It can result in the rightful owners losing their property or being encumbered with a mortgage that is not their own. Title fraud often goes undetected until it is too late – so let’s look at how you can safeguard your property and protect yourself from title fraud.
What Is Title Fraud?
Title fraud is a type of real estate fraud in which someone falsely claims ownership of a property and then sells or uses it as security for a mortgage loan. Title fraud can be committed in several ways, including:
- impersonating the rightful owner and selling the property without their knowledge or consent
- impersonating the rightful owner to borrow money secured against property to which the fraudster does not actually own
- creating false documents to support the fraudster’s claim to ownership for nefarious purposes
- falsifying the history of the property to make it appear that it has a clear title when it has liens or outstanding debts on title
- fabricating a chain of title to make it look like the fraudster has a legitimate claim to the property
How Can I Protect Myself from Title Fraud?
You would think that the individuals most vulnerable to title fraud are typically first-time homebuyers, the elderly, and those unfamiliar with the real estate purchasing process. While it’s true that these groups can be more susceptible to these scams, the reality is that the risk exists for all homeowners regardless of your experience or your background.
Here are some tips for protecting yourself and your loved ones against title fraud:
- Conduct a thorough and current title search to verify ownership information before purchasing a property. It’s essential to verify the authenticity of the title deed and any other related documents. This can include searching public records and checking for liens or encumbrances and obtaining a title search from the BC Land Title Office.
- Engage a qualified real estate lawyer to handle the transfer of title and perform due diligence. Legal professionals have experience to help verify the authenticity of title documents and to protect your interests during the process.
- Keep your personal information secure to prevent fraudsters from using it to commit title fraud. That includes your social insurance number, passport information and home address.
- Regularly monitor your credit report to detect any unauthorized activity, such as the opening of a new bank account or line of credit in your name which may suggest that your financial information has been compromised.
- Purchasing title insurance from a legal professional to compensate you in case you suffer a loss due to title fraud. It’s not too late to buy a policy even if you’ve owned the property for a few years now.
- You can also apply to the land title office to physically remove the title itself, known as the ‘duplicate title’ but then you’re responsible for storing the duplicate title in a safe place, and you’ll need to re-deposit the duplicate title when you want to sell or deal with the property. If the duplicate title is removed, transactions involving the home cannot take place, however if you lose the duplicate title, you’ll have to go through a very burdensome process to replace it.
- Sign up for ‘alerts’ on Google or other search engines which will alert you if there are news about your home address. Many properties listed for sale will be published on a realty webpage, and an alert can give you advanced warning if someone tries to list your property, but this method is not fool-proof and is definitely not a replacement for title insurance which protects a lot more than just a home being fraudulently sold. For example, if a fraudster took out a mortgage and borrowed money against your home, that would likely not trigger a google alert and you may still suffer a loss.
What is the impact to innocent home buyers who purchase a home from a fraudster?
- For now, the legal impact on buyers is, surprisingly, muted. That’s because for innocent buyers who paid fair market value for their homes, their rights as homeowners will in most cases be preserved once they register on title under the current land title system known as the Torrens System. This provides certainty of ownership to buyers, as long as they were not part of the fraud, and as long as they paid a fair price their home, that they have the assurance that the home usually cannot be taken away from them just because a fraudster pretending to be the seller sold it to them. In other words, this means that registration of the buyer’s ownership provides certainty and is conclusive of their ownership rights, a concept known in law as ‘indefeasible title’ . However, this also means it’s more difficult for the original owners who are victims of fraud, to get their title back once it is registered to an innocent home purchaser.
- If the buyers paid fair and good money for the house, in most cases, they would be the ones to suffer the loss if they simply gave the house back to the seller, unless they were compensated. However, in most cases, the seller is not going to want to pay additional monies to re-purchase their own house from the innocent buyer. In theory, the Land Title Office in BC has an insurance fund known as the ‘Assurance Fund’ >which should reimburse the owners in case of property fraud. However, in practice, this route is often time consuming, cumbersome, and the owners face significant hurdles to go through the process to get fully compensated from the Assurance Fund. Buyers are encouraged to purchase private insurance known as ‘title insurance’ which will often compensate the buyers if they suffer any loss as a result of title fraud. Title insurance can be purchased through a lawyer or notary public, and provides more protection in the form of financial compensation to title insurance policy-holders affected by the fraud which could include not just individuals but also the banks who lend mortgages registered against a fraudulent title.
Can owners who are defrauded get their house back?
- going back to the concept of ‘indefeasible title’, it may be difficult for the original owners to ‘get their properties back’ as long as the buyers were not part of the fraud, and paid fair market value for the properties. Sellers could in theory re-purchase the property back from the innocent buyers with the financial compensation from title insurance, but there is no guarantee that the buyers would be willing to re-sell the house back to the seller. Of course, each case has to be looked at on a case-by-case basis, and if the buyers did in fact collude or co-operate knowingly with a fraudster to purchase the property, then the defrauded homeowner could take the matter to the BC Supreme Court, but that could still involve lawyers and potentially a trial, hence the necessity of title insurance to potentially pay for the legal expense of doing so.
Real Estate Lawyers in Richmond, British Columbia
If you suspect that you are a victim of title fraud, report to the police immediately and consult a real estate lawyer. Reinstating ownership of a property title can be time-consuming and often times, you must act quickly. At Bernard Lau & Co., we have experience to advise you on protecting yourself from title fraud. If you’d like to learn more about title fraud or would like to order title insurance, call us at 604.285.5242 or complete our contact form to arrange a consultation.
When buying a home, one of the most important legal steps is for your lawyer to ensure who holds title to the property. This title verification is often done by way of a title search, and can be certified by a document known as the State of Title Certificate, which is simply a certified copy of the title search. In short, property ownership, whether commercial or residential, can be proven by a title or a state of title certificate. A real estate lawyer can confirm legal ownership by conducting a title search on your behalf so that the registered owner is consistent with the name of the seller on any contract of purchase and sale for that property. Sometimes the legal name on a title search may not always correspond with that owner having beneficial ownership of the property, such as in the care of a bare trust relationship, but that is beyond the scope of this article and you should obtain independent legal advice on this issue if you have any concerns.
What Is a Title?
A title shows the legal rights of ownership of real property consisting of land and buildings on the property. In simple terms, having title often provides the title holder with a bundle of rights, including:
Conveyance rights: This refers to the transfer of title or ownership of property from one person (the seller) to another (the buyer).
Disposition or collateral rights: The title holder often has a right to refinance, gift or transfer ownership of their property to someone else.
Exclusive use: The property owner is often entitled to utilize, occupy and enjoy the property or to allow others to do the same.
Types of Title
A title can be held by one or several persons. A single owner will hold sole title. However, multiple owners who hold title to the same real property can be categorized as either joint tenancy or tenancy in common.
Joint tenancy refers to two or more individuals who hold an equal percentage of interest in a property. Their title rights are equally shared. If an owner dies, the property in many cases, will transfer to the surviving joint owners.
Tenancy in common
Tenancy in common allows two or more people to hold equal or unequal percentages of legal ownership in a property. If one tenant in common owner dies, that share passes in accordance with the deceased’s Will or under the laws of intestacy if there is no Will, rather than automatically to the other surviving owner.
A real estate lawyer can advise you on your property ownership rights and discuss with you some of your options to hold title. Remember, title can be a complicated legal issue and the name you see registered on a title search may not always equate to that individual or company actually holding the beneficial ownership of that particular property, such as in the case of a trust relationship that may not be visible in a title search. Accordingly, if you have questions or concerns about title, it is best that you consult with a legal professional to examine title on a case by case basis since each set of circumstances behind title ownership are unique.
What Is a State of Title Certificate?
A state of title certificate is a certified copy of the title usually issued by the province or the land title office. This legal document identifies the legal owner of that property. The certificate lists key identifiers, including the property’s legal description and parcel identifying number (PID), the legal owner(s) name and mailing address, and any outstanding liens or encumbrances.
Real Estate Lawyer in Richmond, BC
Bernard Lau and Co. would be happy to provide legal advice on real estate law or if you have any questions about title ownership.
Buying a house is one of the biggest investments you will make in life. Whether it’s your first home purchase or your fifth, there are numerous responsibilities that come with a newly bought home.
While it may feel overwhelming – as well as exciting – it’s important to ensure that you and your new home are well protected. Although most of us know about fire insurance and homeowner’s insurance to protect our home’s physical structure and personal contents, it’s important not to forget about insurance coverage for our property’s title, which is just as important but more easily overlooked. One of the ways this is done is through title insurance.
What Is Title Insurance?
First, it’s necessary to understand what title insurance is. “Title” refers to the property’s ownership, while “title insurance” is a form of insurance that protects against risks to your title.
Title insurance can oftentimes protect both lenders and homebuyers against loss or damage occurring from illegal liens, encumbrances, or defects in a property’s title. Common claims filed against a title are tax liens, builder’s liens, certificates of pending litigation, and encumbrances such as mortgage loans, and home equity lines of credit (HELOC).
It’s essential to learn as much as you can before making such a substantial purchase. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to consult an experienced real estate lawyer about your specific situation. To get you started, here are some of the most significant benefits of title insurance.
Benefits of Title Insurance for the Homeowner
Title insurance can protect you for as long as you own the property. It protects against a number of risks. These risks may include:
Encroachments that would be disclosed by a new survey
For example, title insurance protects you if a neighbour’s deck is being partly situated on your land. Title insurance also covers encroachment issues such as if your backyard shed is actually on your neighbor’s property and must be removed. If the encroachment cannot be removed for safety reasons (such as a retaining wall), then you may need to compensate your neighbour for the encroachment, and title insurance may provide coverage for such costs.
Not having a survey
Although having a survey is advisable, title insurance can offer legal protection in lieu of a survey by transferring any risks that may have been disclosed by a survey, to the title insurer with respect to defects in title and other defects such as encroachments.
Someone other than the homeowner having interest
For example, a previous owner of the property not being properly discharged from title or a previous owner claiming a beneficial interest or unregistered title to the Property.
Liens from contractors, taxing entities or previous lenders
Title insurance can protect homeowners from charges accrued by previous owners. For example, if the former owner failed to pay municipal or school taxes and the tax authorities file a tax lien on title, title insurance may protect the new owner from title defects and unpaid tax liens or assessments. If previous mortgages or charges by lenders of the previous owner remain on title, title insurance may cover the costs associated with discharging these liens from title.
Forgery or fraud
Title fraud, which occurs when a person uses false identification to impersonate you to obtain a mortgage or sell the home without you knowing, is one of the more common risks that can be addressed by title insurance. Such consequences can be devastating and recovery through the Courts or other means without title insurance can be time-consuming, stressful and costly.
Title Insurance vs. Homeowners’ Insurance
Some homeowners assume that title insurance is included within a home insurance policy. Because of this misunderstanding, an alarming number of Canadians today do not have title insurance.
While home insurance may protect homeowners from unexpected circumstances that occur on or against their property or its contents, such as fire or earthquakes, title insurance protects the homebuyer from unexpected circumstances that affect the title to the property, such as financial loss from title fraud or other issues. The title insurance’s coverage is often less tangible and inconspicuous compared with the physical damage that a fire may cause, but the financial consequences of title fraud or a fraudulent mortgage registered against your property may be even more severe.
Fortunately, unlike home insurance, title insurance is a one-time premium that is typically purchased at the same time as the property. However, title insurance can also be purchased by existing homeowners who already own their property.
Are You Looking For a Real Estate Lawyer?
Title insurance can only be purchased through legal professional. If you, or someone you know, is looking for a real estate lawyer or would like more information on ordering title insurance, contact Bernard Lau and Co. Our knowledgeable and experienced team can provide personalized advice on a case-by-case basis.