courts, jury trials, law, lawyers

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

We’re betting that David Berry Jr. will leave prison a reformed man next year. Not only was he slammed with a year-long jail sentence for deer poaching, but the Missouri judge who sentenced him also ordered that he watch the Disney movie Bambi in its entirety at least once a month during his incarceration. Continue reading “Cruel and Unusual Punishment”

Big Law, computers, courts, dispruptive technology, law, Law Society of BC, lawyers

The Legal year that was-2018

Once again this year I succumb to the lazy pundits’ content creation strategy of posting a retrospective on the highlights of the legal year now drawing to a close. And why Not? Not only has it been a busy, busy year, but I have a hunch that a few years down the pike, analysts will be opining that 2018 was a watershed year in the evolution of the profession. Continue reading “The Legal year that was-2018”

courts, law, Law Society of BC, lawyers

Justice Delayed

Since the Attorney General seems determined to create a species of half-trained lawyers and to have them regulated by the Law Society perhaps we ought to examine some of the mechanics of how that might work. Continue reading “Justice Delayed”

courts, divorce, family law, law, lawyers, politics

Herding Cats

There is an old saying that  managing lawyers is just like herding cats: neither likes being managed, herded or told what to do, as the Law Society of BC and the Attorney General discovered last week at the Society’s Annual General meeting, where the lawyers, hissing and scratching all the way, torpedoed the AG’s latest pet project. Continue reading “Herding Cats”

law, lawyers, wills & estates

Know when to hold ’em

An Executor’s job has never been an easy one, stick handling through the paperwork and bureaucracy to wrap up a deceased’s affairs while all the while dealing with the foibles and expectations of impatient beneficiaries.

It seem that every one is a critic when it comes to the disposition of the big-ticket items in the estate, the house, cottage or business, and the sniping doesn’t stop when dealing with the small stuff like the picture over the mantle and the costume jewellery.

The advent of crypto-currencies gives beneficiaries yet another golden opportunity to throw stones at beleaguered executors, who typically are walking blindfolded into a minefield when they enter the Alice-in Wonderland word of Bit-coin and Ethereum

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An executor is charged with liquidating the assets of the estate in a careful, prudent and timely manner. More easily said than done in a world where asset values fluctuate constantly. Executors have long wrestled with decisions such as -” do I list the house for sale now, or wait til the spring, in hopes the market will continue to rise ?”. Lawyers, recognizing the problem of constantly changing asset values , usually include clauses in wills empowering executors to retain assets such as stocks and other securities in the form in which they were found at the  date of death. Still, an executor is playing “hot potato” while holding onto any assets whose value can slide. Beneficiaries don’t want apologies they want cash!

Enter the era of digital currency – would it be an exaggeration to say that never before in the  history of mankind has a more mercurial asset class existed? ( well, maybe tulips, during the infamous ‘Tulip mania’ bubble Tulipomaniain fifteenth century Holland – but that’s another story !) From a 2014  value of around $120 the coin skyrocketed to an $18,000 high last December, before taking coin holders on a breathtaking roller coaster ride during 2018. A month ago a coin was worth  over $6,000 while today, a month later , it trades at half that value.

So what’s an executor to do?  how do you make a prudent business decision when dealing with a completely new class of asset, that you don’t understand, that fluctuates wildly in value? One wrong move and you are dead meat, and liable to be devoured by ravenous beneficiaries.

It’s certainly something to think about, when you get the phone call from that nerdy friend who dabbles in crypto currencies asking if you would mind being his executor. ( and,m if you are that nerdy guy, could you do every one a favour by liquidating your crypto – currency positions  before you shuffle of your mortal coil?)

courts, divorce, family law, law, weddings, wills & estates

Til Death do us part

As the days grow short, rain rattles against the window panes and Christmas carols take over the Muzak in the mall, normal people start their Christmas decorating and baking while we lawyers, ever marching to a different drummer, lumber into action in a mad dash to complete our  mandatory  annual CLE credits.

In order to maintain our ability to practice for the coming year we must do several things: refrain from getting caught committing any indictable offenses; pay the law society an inordinate sum for fees, and lastly, provide proof of attendance of at least 12 hours of “lawyers school.”

Not being one to leave things until the last minute I resolved this year to bag all my necessary educational credits well before the 30 November deadline-whole days before, so I signed up for a course about what’s new and exciting in the world of wills and estates.

To my surprise I found the course most instructive: indeed I learned a lot about marriage. Now having been a husband for almost 40 years now, I thought I knew a thing or two about the institution-I even consider myself partially house broken; but, it seems there is always more to learn.

When I began my own journey into wedded bliss, a formal walk down the isle was the sole precursor to asserting any claims at all againswed3t the property or income of a significant other, in the event that things didn’t work out, and marriage was defined as “the union of one man, and one woman, for life.” Pretty simple, straightforward  stuff, that even a poor country lawyer could suss out.

Nowadays, as a result of the Family Law Act, the Wills Estates and Succession Act, the Charter, and a handful of other legislative changes, as interpreted by recent court decisions, its a whole new ball game. In modern times, one can, it seems, slide into matrimony without even knowing it!

Distinctions between “formal” and “common law ” marriages have long since been consigned to the dust bin, along with any notion that your spouse need be someone of the opposite gender. One can acquire significant support obligations in any relationship that endures for longer than two years, and a claim against some pension benefits can be advanced after only a year of togetherness.

The courts now instruct us that we need to run through a bit of a checklist  of activities to determine if two people seen hanging out together may in  fact be married in the eyes of the law. Are they doing things that suggest they are in a “marriage -like  relationship”?

Do they live together, sleep together, pool their finances, vacation together, own things  together, bicker, or complete each others sentences ? Now here’s where recent judicial pronouncement make it interesting. Courts have ruled that you no linger have to live together, or have sex, or pool your resources in order to be deemed to be married. You can inadvertently acquire a spouse if your relationship ticks a sufficient number of “marriage-like relationship” boxes.

This can be a big deal if you happen to die without a thoughtful estate plan in place, since your “spouse” steps to the head of the line to claim a big chunk of your estate, as well as life insurance, pension benefits, RRSP’s  and the like. For most, their long term relationships are sufficiently “marriage -like” so the question doesn’t come up, but for many, it does. Consider seniors who acquire companions late in life, never thinking that their friend might displace their children for a share of their estate  or those whose time together is punctuated by long periods of separation, or those who fall into long distance relationships.

We live in interesting times- it didn’t used to be so hard to tell if you were married !

 

 

dispruptive technology, law, politics

The Red Flag Act of 2018

Mankind has always had an ambivalent relationship with disruptive technology. Inventive by nature we are constantly coming up with breakthrough ideas then slamming on the brakes out of fear that new technologies may need casualties in their wake.

The first red flag act was passed in the UK in  1865- to deal with the peril of self propelled vehicles or “horseless carriages” as they were sometimes known. Similar legislation was passed in several US states in the 1890s- they were called “red flag” acts, because they required horseless carriages to be accompanied by a flag person waving a red flag to warn others of their approach.

The newest red flag act was introduced by the BC government this month in the form of the Passenger Transportation Amendment Act–  also known as the “Nobble Uber  At All Costs Act”. It is a classic Luddite reaction to the emergence of disruptive technology. The legislation seeks to eliminate all of the unique attributes of ride sharing, such as the ability to tap into casual part-time drivers, and the use of dynamic pricing, and tries to force ride sharing into the old-fashioned taxi business model.

Just as the governments of the day had no success forcing horseless carriages to throttle back to the speed of the horse-drawn carriages they were replacing, I predict that the BC government will not be able to continue to bind the hands of the ride sharing movement for much longer. Frankly, it is an embarrassment that they are attempting to do so.