Tips to Help Choose a Strata Property
The popularity of strata title properties is rising in BC as both first-time buyers and empty nesters embrace their relative financial accessibility and convenience. The lower maintenance, shared amenities and relative affordability of condos, townhomes and other strata properties as compared to single-family homes offer benefits for many BC home buyers. It's estimated that more than 1.5 million BC residents live in residential stratas-34 percent of BC's population.
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Best of BC: The Fraser Valley
As our thoughts turn to the fall harvest, few places have the abundance of farm products that the Fraser Valley offers. A drive through the historic township of Fort Langley offers up a variety of quaint antique stores and specialty shops, in addition to a weekly Farmers' Market, featuring fresh produce, dairy cheeses, butter and eggs, corn brittle, honey, preserves, fresh baking and much more.

If wine is more to your liking, then a visit to award-winning Township 7 Vineyard and Winery is a must see, featuring a cottage on the property from the 1930s.
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Expecting a Visit from International Family or Friends?
In some cases, when a visitor applies for a visa to enter Canada, a notarized Letter of Invitation from a resident of Canada is required.
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Tax Credits Available to Seniors
Seniors are not always aware of some of the tax credits and grants they may qualify for. As Notaries practicing throughout the province, we want to ensure seniors and their families are aware of the following additional government credits and grant.
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Four Fitness Classes to Try in Autumn
Autumn blew in early this year in many of parts of the province, leaving some of us in fitness limbo. We hadn't anticipated packing away our cycling, hiking, golf or running gear quite yet.

Physical activity is an important part of most people's lives, as we try to stay healthy and active. For days when you can't get outdoors, here are some classes that will get your heart rate up and your muscles toned while still having fun!
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Plan Ahead for Property Tax and Home Owner Grants
Spring is a time for warmer weather, tulips, organizing, and that other annual ritual-paying property taxes. If you're a home owner in British Columbia, you will soon receive a reminder about your municipal property taxes. Paying property taxes is an annual cost of home ownership. The money goes toward many of the public services we enjoy in our communities.

Property tax bills British will be arriving in the mail shortly. In most towns and cities across the province, annual property taxes are due on the first business day after July 1. This year, the due date is Tuesday, July 2. In some cities, such as Vancouver, advance taxes are paid in February, with the balance collected on the July deadline.
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Legislation Changes to Impact British Columbians Who Don't Have a Will
Still without a Will?
British Columbians who have yet to put their last wishes into writing may want to pay attention to pending changes to our province's Wills, Estates and Succession Act (WESA).
• The new Act, which comes into effect March 31, 2014, includes significant changes regarding who is entitled to an inheritance and how it will be divided among various family members when no legal Will is in place.
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"He was a very smart man, but he died like an idiot."
That quote is from a friend of the late New York developer Roman Blum who died at age 97 with no legal Will in place. According to media reports, his estate was valued at $40 million. Consistent with the laws of the state, his funds are being used to pay taxes, conduct an in-depth search for his Will, and hire a genealogist to search for relatives. If no one is identified, the money will pass into the coffers of the State of New York.
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Best of BC: Take Time for Tofino
It's best known as Canada's surf capital, but there's more to Tofino than catching waves. Fishing, hiking, camping, birding, and whale-watching are just some of the other outdoor activities that draw people year-round to this small community at the southern edge of Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island.

I welcome visitors to the area by majestic trees and lush rainforest that characterize the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Within the park, lining the Pacific Ocean, is the 16-kilometre stretch of beach aptly known as Long Beach, where visitors can walk or stop to rest while watching the waves roll in.
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Password Protection
In our increasingly digital world, passwords can be as important as keys or contracts. We're often reminded

  • to use appropriately secure passwords-typically, a combination of letters and numbers, not words or names that someone can guess, such as family or pet names, and
  • to change passwords regularly to ensure ongoing security.

Accessing and securing your online banking, credit card accounts, subscriptions, ongoing repeat purchases and commitments, and even social media can be very important in the event of sudden and unforeseen circumstances, including medical emergencies.
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5 Links: Grow a Better Garden
Spring means it's time to get back into the garden. Here are five links to help inspire your green thumb.

1. Spring Gardening Checklist from Canadian Gardening Magazine
2. Spring Cleaning Your Garden
3. Martha Stewart's Take
4. Country Living's "10 Secrets to the Perfect Garden"
5. What Not to Do - "Top 10 Rookie Gardening Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)"


BC's First Family Day Reminds Us of Importance of Planning
BC will celebrate its first Family Day holiday on Monday, February 11. It's an excellent opportunity to connect with relatives young and old and to think about planning for the future. Plans for 2013 will include vacations; home renovations or new homes; celebrations for weddings, birthdays, and anniversaries; and other special events.

You may also wish to also review advance care planning options with your family members, to find out what types of arrangements they have made, if any-and what arrangements you should be making.

That can be a sensitive subject because no one wants to think about a time when they or their loved ones might not be capable of making important decisions for themselves.

The Benefits of Planning
Advance planning is such an important tool to ensure that a person's wishes are followed and to promote family harmony, now and in the future.

Doing advance care planning for family members now empowers them to make choices for themselves and to take charge of their own health care before the need arises. That means relatives don't have to guess, make difficult decisions during a time of stress, or even face disagreement and differing views.

It is a simple process that a Notary can lead you through and it helps minimize stress and conflict among friends and family. It also allows health care workers to react quicker and more efficiently in an emergency or critical situation.

What is Advance Care Planning?
Advance care planning is the process of considering and documenting your health care preferences. Everyone should have a plan. It can include the following.

  • A discussion with those likely to be there when your need arises (family, caregiver, physician, close friends)
  • A statement of your expressed wishes for future health care to assist your decision-maker to understand what to do for end-of-life decisions in case you cannot do so later
  • A Representation Agreement
  • A Power of Attorney
  • A Will
  • An Advance Directive, if you have decided not to rely on others to make decisions for you

How to Create Your Advance Care Plan
BC Notaries are professionally trained and have extensive experience in helping clients develop advance care plans. We recommend the following approach.

  • Become informed about your planning options and decisions. It starts with a conversation with your Notary. It's not hard and it doesn't have to cost a lot. You can decide how decisions will be made if you are unable to make them in future.
  • Have a conversation with your physician so you understand how certain key decisions could affect you, taking your personal health condition into consideration.
  • Have a conversation with the family members you wish to be involved in your future care planning or ask a close friend if he or she will fill that role for you. You may want to discuss available resources for future care needs.
  • The above 3 items form the basis for your Representation Agreement document.
  • Your BC Notary can help you decide what information should be in your advance care plan, then put everything together in writing to ensure you've fully considered and clarified your decisions.

Power of Attorney Useful for out-of-town University Students
While many people think of a Power of Attorney as a tool to help older relatives with their daily finances or take care of the affairs of a loved one who is gravely ill, it can also be useful for students.

At this time of year, many young adult children are heading off to university. They may want help with day-to-day issues such as banking, paying bills, or even making housing arrangements. The only way a parent can do those things for an adult child is through a Power of Attorney.

BC Notary Tiah Workman says, "It came as a shock when someone pointed out to me that my son was no longer my child-he was now an adult of legal age! After he moved away to school, I could not help him take care of his responsibilities here in Nanaimo without a Power of Attorney. I can tell you I had a Power of Attorney document all ready for him to sign when he arrived for his next visit! It came in particularly handy when we had to sublet his Victoria apartment for him when he left the province for 8 months to work in a co-op position!"

You never know when a Power of Attorney arrangement will come in handy, so it's best to have one in place and keep it up to date.

A Helping Hand for First-time Buyers
Despite a slightly lower number of homes changing hands in various parts of BC over the Summer, house prices in many areas are holding steady. Vancouver and Victoria in particular remain elusive for many first-time homebuyers. In BC's higher-priced housing markets, most people could use a financial boost to buy their first home.

Often, parents or grandparents who have significantly paid down-or paid off-their own mortgages are willing to step in to help young family members enter the real estate market to secure their first home. Some families arrange it as an early inheritance; some agree on shared ownership of the home; others prefer simply to write a cheque. Such decisions are important and should be carefully considered. Determining who will and won't be listed on title can impact the eligibility of first-time-buyer benefits and trigger various taxes and other situations.

Whatever structure works for individual families, the bank and other lenders require that any money used in a down payment must not be a debt incurred by the purchaser-in other words, the homebuyer must not borrow money for the down payment.

When part or all of the down payment is a gift from a parent, grandparent, or other supporter, the buyer must provide written confirmation that the money is a gift and that the person providing the money does not expect or require repayment. The bank or mortgage broker will provide guidance and details on the requirements for documenting the support from family or friends.

Similarly, despite the presence of a down payment that meets the requirements of the government and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the lender may require a guarantor on the mortgage documents.

If that is the case, it's important that the guarantor be available and accessible to sign the appropriate documents during the closing period-usually the last few days before the homebuyer takes possession of the home.

If Mom, Grandpa, or Uncle John happens to be out of the country or otherwise unavailable during that critical closing timeframe, it could impact the first-time buyer's ability to meet the completion date-and even jeopardize the deal.

If you or a person in your family is considering helping someone achieve the dream of home ownership-whether a condo, a townhouse, or a house with a yard-it's a good idea to seek professional advice. A BC Notary can help you understand the process and pitfalls of such arrangements and ensure that the first-home purchase experience is smooth, secure, and rewarding.


Should you update your will?
Many of us procrastinate over drawing a Will. Then, when we finally do it, we put it away in a safety deposit box and don't give it another thought, assuming it is a fait accompli.
As any BC Notary will tell you, it's wise to consider-on a regular basis-whether you need to update your Will. Key life events or changes might make it prudent or necessary to modify the document.

When is the last time you updated your Will? A Yes answer to even one of the following questions can make your Will out of date.

  • Marriage or divorce in the family?
  • Birth or death in the family?
  • Have you bought, sold, or rented real estate?
  • Have you loaned money to someone?
  • Have you purchased or sold a valuable possession such as a vehicle, boat, or jewellery?
  • Is the person you appointed as executor no longer able to perform that role?

If any of these have taken place, your will is out of date. For guidance and assistance in updating your will, visit your BC Notary.