Frequently Asked Questions

General

What are your hours?


We are open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Thursday. We are available outside these hours by appointment only. If you contact us while we are closed, we will reply to all voicemails and emails as soon as we can.




How long does it take to get an appointment?


We can schedule an appointment for you within a few days.




What kind of payment methods do you accept?


We can accept Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and e-transfers. We can accept cash for in-office purchases of books, guides, and kits, as well as seminars. We are unable to accept debit. Cash cannot be used for retainers.




I live outside St. John's, but I could use your services. Can you still help me?


We will do our best to accommodate your needs. For mediations, we can travel throughout the province for a session. We do ask that you ensure all parties will be able to meet in the same community before we make travel arrangements. For more information about why all parties must be present, please see the mediation section below.

If you would like to get your will written or reviewed, we do require a meeting with you face to face before we can start any work. Depending on your location, we may be able to come to you or use an alternative technology-based meeting, such as Skype or Facetime.

If you would like to set up a seminar for a group outside of St. John's, we can travel to you. We would require payment in full prior to making travel arrangements. One-time consultations can be done over the phone, provided you are able to fax or email your ID.




Do you charge a fee to travel to someone's home?


Whether or not we charge will depend on if the person is mobile, and where they live. If you are mobile and have requested that we come to your home, we will charge our travel time at the usual hourly rate used for litigation, regardless of your location.

If you are not mobile and live within the St. John's/Mount Pearl/Paradise area, we will not charge a fee. If you are not mobile and live outside of these areas, there will be a fee of $20.00. We do not charge a fee to visit clients in hospitals or palliative care facilties.




I can't make it to my scheduled appointment. Can I reschedule?


Yes, absolutely. Please call us to find a new appointment time. We will not charge you for rescheduling.




Can I bring my children to my appointment?


Most of our services run more smoothly without children present. Please see the sections below for more details, or check when you book your appointment. Generally, it is easier to focus on the details when you come without children, as we do not have the ability to watch them while you are in your appointment.




Is your office wheelchair accessible?


Yes, our office is accessible for wheelchairs, motorized scooters, and walkers. Our office is street level. We have quite a bit of seating within our office, and there is ample space for wheelchairs. Our conference rooms are not formal and are designed so that the chairs can be moved. We also have multiple parking spaces right in front of the office, all of which are free.




Do I need to book an appointment to get something notarized?


You can book an appointment if you like, but it is not necessary. Feel free to drop by anytime during our hours. You can also call us ahead of time to make sure someone is available at the time you would like to come by. To swear a document in front of a Commissioner for Oaths you do not need an appointment.




Is there a way I can provide feedback about my experience?


Definitely. We appreciate our clients taking the time to give us feedback about their experience. Please feel free to email us or write us a letter and let us know what you think, or to use the contact us form on this site.





Wills & Estate Planning

What is estate planning?


Estate planning is planning for the future and ensuring that everything you have worked hard for goes to your loved ones. Part of estate planning is having a strong will that can work with any joint property, whom you designate as your beneficiaries and any insurance policies you may have. It also means having documents ready that will allow the person of your choice to make decisions on your behalf if you lose mental capacity.

Our wills package includes the documents you need for estate planning.




What are the benefits of estate planning?


When you visit us for estate planning, you get to choose what happens with all of your assets, who your executor will be, and if you want to set up trusts for any of your family members. Having your wishes clearly defined also helps reduce disputes and arguments among your family members once you have passed, as well as fewer court challenges that come from unclear documents.




How is estate planning different from writing a will?


A will is one part of estate planning. Estate planning also includes other documents, such as Enduring Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives. Estate planning also includes reviewing your financial situation in the bigger picture - including property, loans, RRSPs, and insurance policies, among other items.

Part of the estate planning process is to review your will. For more information about will reviews, please see the "Will Review" section below.




I don't have a lot of assets, can you still help me?


Absolutely. Estate planning is about making sure that what you have gets passed on to the people you would like to receive it, not about how much you have to pass on. Estate planning can be helpful to anyone who has children or grandchildren, a spouse, owns property or a business, or who would like to prevent family disputes.




What is fixed pricing? What does “billable hours” mean, and how come you don’t use it for most of your services?


Fixed pricing means the price we list for a service is the price we will charge you. For example, the price for a basic wills package is $750 for a single person or $950 for a couple. A couple may be legally married or common-law. The term “billable hours” means that you are charged per hour for the amount of time that the lawyer spends working on your file. We don’t use this system because we believe that having a fixed price for a service is fairer to our clients and makes law services more accessible for those that need them. Estate litigation is the only service we offer that is billed per hour.




If we aren't married, is the cost for a couple still the same?


Yes. The cost will not change whether you are legally married or common-law.




How much do wills cost at other law firms? How come your prices are different?


On average, other firms charge between $300 and $1200 for wills, using the billable hours system. Our prices are different because we charge one price for the service, instead of charging for each hour spent working on it. We are required to charge H.S.T on our fees.




What is included in the price for a basic will?


The price includes your initial discussion, the time spent working on the will and the finished project. Since we do not use the billable hour system, no matter how many hours your estate planning takes it will be the same price. Our wills package includes an Enduring Power of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directive at no additional cost.




What is a basic will? What needs to be included for there to be an extra charge?


A basic will is a document that sets out all of your wishes for your property and assets, the distribution of your estate, and the care of any children who are minors once you have passed away. Extra charges to the price of your will would occur if you would like to make any large changes to your will once work has already started. For example, we would charge extra fees if you decided to leave the estate in a trust after we had already drafted your will without a trust. We would be happy to discuss your exact circumstances and all of the options during your consultation.




What happens during the consultation? What if I need more time?


During the consultation with the lawyer, you will discuss the details of what you would like to include in your will. The lawyer will give you suggestions and advice about various elements of your plans. The consultation is booked for one hour. This is usually enough time, but if you need additional time we can schedule another appointment we can certainly do so. There will not be any additional fees to come in again and continue the conversation.




Do I need to bring anything with me for the consultation?


Once you have booked your appointment for a consultation, we will email or mail you a questionnaire that is designed to gather your personal information and to save time during your consultation. Please fill in the portions of the questionnaire that apply to you. Either email it back to us prior to your consultation or bring a printed copy with you. It is intended to help you start thinking about your estate, rather than provide a complete plan.

You will also need to bring one piece of government-issued identification.

We do not require copies of marriage certificates, life insurance policies, bank statements, investments, or anything else.

Remember that all information we gather about you is kept strictly confidential.




When do I pay?


On the day of your appointment, we will provide you with an invoice. We ask that you pay it within 30 days, although we find many of our clients pay it when they receive it. Any invoices that are not paid within 30 days are subject to interest.





Litigation

How much do you charge for estate litigation?


The fee for estate litigation is $350.00 per hour. This is the only service we offer that is billed using an hourly rate. You will not be charged for photocopies and printed pages unless a brief or authority needs to be made. In this situation, there is a small fee per copy. You will not be charged for regular printing or photocopying.




Will you take my case?


All cases are evaluated on an individual basis. If you would like us to represent you, please contact us to arrange a consultation. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to take on your case.




What is the fee for the consultation?


If we are able to accept your case, the fee will be rolled into the billing for the litigation.

If we are not able to accept your case, the consultation will be billed as a one-time consult.

The consultation may take longer than one hour. If your consultation is longer than an hour, there will not be any additional fees for the consult.





Mediation

What is mediation? How is it different from going to court?


Mediation is a form of dispute resolution that can be used as an alternative to going to court. In mediation, the participating groups try to come to a mutual agreement that all parties are comfortable with. When an issue goes to court, the judge comes to a decision unilaterally and tells the parties what will happen. In mediation, the participants decide together what the best course of action is. The mediator is the neutral person who helps keep the conversation on track, makes sure all participants have voiced their concerns and understand the other points of view, and assist the participants in finding a solution that is fair for everyone involved.




What happens in a mediation session?


When you come to our offices for the first session, we will start with a brief explanation of what mediation is and what the goals are for the session. We set up our mediation sessions in our conference room, and we will provide you with refreshments. Keep in mind mediation is intended to be a joint effort by all parties to come to a solution, and we would like our clients to be as comfortable as possible. We will provide coffee. tea, and snacks for your session. Please feel free to bring your own as well, although alcohol is not permitted. We will also take a short break halfway through so you can check in with anyone you may need to.

In a predetermined order, each person will explain the situation in their own words. The mediator will make sure each person has time to talk, that questions along the way regarding each person's point of view get answered, and that the conversation is constructive, rather than becoming an argument. The mediator will be familiar with the situation from the information packages that each participant filled out and returned prior to the session.




Does mediation always work? What happens if it is unsuccessful?


There is no guarantee that mediation will work. However, in situations where everyone wants to resolve the issue without conflict and without resorting to the court system, mediation is effective. Even if one person is angry with another, or resentful of their actions, mediation can still work as long as all participants attend in good faith and honestly express themselves while being respectful of others.

Sometimes mediation ends without solving all of the issues. This can still be considered a success if the issues are more clearly understood by everyone, or if a portion of the issues have been resolved.




How come the mediation sessions take half a day?


It can take a while for all parties to explain their point of view, and mediation only works when all participants are understanding of the others. In order for there to be a solution that everyone can agree to, all participants must know what it is the others are concerned about. Allowing a full morning or afternoon for a session provides enough time to hear from each person. Scheduling the second session (if needed) a week later gives everyone time to think through what happened in the first session.




Why is the fee for the initial session more expensive than the subsequent sessions?


The fee for the initial session includes the preparation we do for the mediation. This includes organizing the information packages that are sent to all participants, collecting and reviewing the completed packages with each participant's explanation of the situation, and preparing possible solutions. Since your group may only require one session, this fee is charged along with the first session.




How do we pay for mediation? If mediation wasn't my idea, do I still have to pay for it?


The price of the session is divided equally among all the participants so that one person is not responsible for the entire fee. Each person will receive an invoice. If there are multiple sessions, there will be an invoice for each session so you know exactly how much you are paying, and what you are paying for. The person who suggests mediation as an option for resolution is only responsible for paying for their own share of the fees. Sharing the fees means everyone pays less than he or she would if each person hired their own lawyer.

Payment by each party must be received before the mediation can start. If any of the parties has not made his or her share of the payment 24 hours before the scheduled session, the session may be cancelled and the entire bill may be charged to that party.




Who needs to be at the mediation? What if someone involved in the issue doesn't want to participate?


Everyone who is involved in the dispute needs to be present at each of the mediation sessions. For example, if the dispute is about how to distribute an estate among the four children of the deceased parents, all four of the children must be present. Without having everyone present, it is not possible to decide on a solution that is fair for each person. Most people agree to mediation once they understand they will have the opportunity to fully explain their point of view and that the solution can only work if everyone agrees to it.




Can I bring my significant other/children?


We ask that significant others and children not attend the session. Having spouses, common-law partners, and boy/girlfriends present takes the focus away from the individuals who are directly involved in the dispute and can make it difficult for the participants to honestly express their opinions. We understand if you have a young child who needs care. We do suggest finding childcare arrangements, as we are not able to provide care while you are in your mediation session, and it can be counterproductive to have small children with you in the session. Our goal is for you to get as much out of the time as possible.




What should I bring for a mediation session?


You will need to bring one piece of government-issued identification. If you find that you have questions or concerns before the mediation, we suggest writing them down and bringing them with you so that you don't forget anything important. Please feel free to bring anything that helps you organize your thoughts.




What happens if we need to cancel the session?


If a session is cancelled by anyone other than the mediator for any reason within one business day of the scheduled commencement of the session, we will not issue any refund of the fee, the HST, or funds used for travel expenses (if applicable).

If a session is cancelled by anyone other than the mediator two business days or more before it is scheduled to begin, we will refund half of the amount paid to us

If the session is cancelled by the mediator for reasons not related to the mediation, we will give you the option to refund the full fee or to reschedule at a later date at no extra charge.

Refunds will not be given for unsuccessful mediation sessions.




One of the parties is a minor. Can he/she participate?


If one of the beneficiaries of the estate is a minor, that beneficiary is represented by the executor of the estate. If the issue being disputed causes the executor's interests to be different from those of the minor, the executor cannot represent the minor. In this situation, we will ask you to contact the Public Trustee's office at (709) 729-0850 to ask whether that office is willing to act on behalf of the minor beneficiary. They may say that the parents should represent the minor, but it is best to discuss this with them directly.





Will Reviews

What is a will review? Why would I need one?


In a will review, the lawyer will sit down with you and go through your will page by page. This usually takes about 45 minutes to an hour. Frequently people need to update their wills because their family situation has changed, such as having another child or grandchild, their financial standing has changed for better or worse, or there has been a major life event, such as getting married. Sometimes a law has changed that is relevant to your will.

If there are parts of your will that you would like to update and you would like us to write your new will, the cost of the will review will come out of the cost of getting a will written. If you do not want to change your will, you are not obligated to do so. Any potential changes are at your discretion, and we will not charge you for anything other than the cost of the will review.




How do I benefit from a will review?


During the review, you will receive specific suggestions for dealing with assets such as properties or a business, as well as a forewarning for potential taxes on your estate. We can also give you ideas about how to reduce those taxes. It can also be helpful to have the peace of mind of knowing that you have done your best to reduce disputes between your children and beneficiaries by making your intentions for your estate clear.

If your will is already up-to-date and in good condition, we will tell you. The only changes we will suggest are ones that would benefit you. Not all wills need to be changed, but it is helpful to have them reviewed just in case. After a review, you are not obligated to any further work with us.

If you would like, we can put into writing any suggestions and comments that were made during your review.




What should I bring with me? Do I need to send anything in advance?


For your appointment, please bring your current will and any codicils to it. If you have a Memorandum of Personal Effects, please bring that as well. If you would like to send any of these documents in advance you may certainly do so.

Also, please bring one piece of government-issued photo ID.





Consultations

How long is a consultation?


Consultations are booked for one hour, as this is usually enough time. If you need more time, we will extend your appointment if at all possible. If you need more than about fifteen minutes, we will schedule another appointment with you.

When you call to book your appointment, we will ask you for a brief summary of what you would like to talk about. If you think you may need more than one hour, we will schedule extra time. Since we do not bill consultations by the hour, the fee is the same.




What happens during a consultation?


When you book your consultation, we will ask what it is you need assistance with so we know what kind of topic you will need to talk about. There may be a questionnaire we ask you to fill out and return in order to be familiar with your situation and prepared for your appointment. During your consultation, we will answer any questions you have. We will be happy to provide answers based on your specific situation.




What if I need more help?


If you think of new questions (either about the same topic or a different one) after your consultation we will schedule a second consultation with you. This is a separate consult, and therefore is not included in the fee.




What do I need to bring with me?


There will be different documents you need to bring with you depending on the topic of your consultation. We will discuss this with you when you book your appointment. Generally it is a good idea to bring any documents related to the questions that you have.

All appointments require that you bring one piece of government-issued identification.





Purchases

How do I buy a book or kit?


Please contact us to make a purchase. We can accept PayPal, e-transfer, or credit cards over the phone.

If you live in the area, please feel free to visit our office to purchase in-person.

All orders are shipped from our office in St. John's.




Is there a shipping fee?


No. You will not be charged an additional fee for shipping.




What is the refund policy?


All purchases are final sale.




Where do you ship to?


We can ship anywhere.





Reading of a Will

What is a Reading of a Will?


After someone has passed away, one of the responsibilities of the executor is to inform the beneficiaries what has been left to them in the will. One of the most convenient ways to do this is to hold a Reading of the Will. The executor and the beneficiaries gather at the lawyer's office to hear the will as a group. The lawyer tells everyone what is in the will, and what the executor will do.

This is a completely optional way to inform everyone of the will's contents, and it only happens if the executor thinks it is a good way to communicate with the beneficiaries. This usually takes about an hour, although we always schedule extra time for questions.




Why would an executor choose to have a Reading of a Will?


The Reading of a Will is beneficial to the executor in that the information gets shared with all the beneficiaries at once. This saves time and makes sure that all parties hear the details at the same time. Also, everyone will have a chance to ask questions after the Reading, and the lawyer will explain any legal terms and concepts that are confusing. Having everyone together helps make communication about the estate run smoothly.




Can I bring my significant other/spouse/children?


No. We ask that only the executor and the beneficiaries attend, as the contents of the will pertain to them specifically.




Who pays for a Reading of a Will?


The cost of the Reading is covered by the estate.




Some of the beneficiaries don't live here or don't want to attend. Can we still have a Reading?


Yes. As this is not a mandatory legal proceeding, a Reading of a Will can happen without everyone named in the will. As the cost of the service is covered by the estate, whether or not you attend you will not be charged for anything.





Seminars

What happens if I need to cancel the seat I reserved?


If you are unable to attend, please contact us as soon as possible before the start of the seminar. Frequently our seminars have waiting lists, and cancelling ahead of time allows us to contact someone on the waiting list.




What if I need to cancel within 24 hours of the seminar?


We understand that sometimes things come up at the last minute. If you need to cancel within 24 hours of the start of the seminar, please let us know by phone or email that you will not be able to attend. We will happily transfer your reservation to another seminar if you'd like, or cancel your reservation.




If I reserved a seat in a seminar, and someone wants to come with me, can I bring them?


If there is still space available at the seminar you are absolutely welcome to bring someone with you. We will be able to accept payment for their seat at our office. If the seminar is fully booked, we will not be able to accommodate extra people. We keep the group size small to be able to provide a more personalized service.

If you would like to attend a different seminar with someone, you can reserve their seat at the same you reserve your own. If you already have yours reserved, and would like to move it to a different seminar that has seats available, we can transfer your seat to another date so you can attend the seminar together.




How many seats are available for each seminar?


We can accommodate up to 12 people in each seminar. For Executor Boot Camp, we can accommodate a maximum of 8 people per session.




Do I have to reserve a seat, or can I just show up?


We ask that you reserve a seat in advance, as there are a limited number of seats available. If you arrive without a reserved seat and there is enough room, we will certainly accomodate you.




How do I book a private group seminar?


Please contact us directly either by phone, email or in person to arrange a private group seminar. We will find out what topics you are interested in, how many people will be attending, where you would like to hold the seminar and arrange payment. We ask that you pay in full upon booking the seminar. 25% of the fee is non-refundable, to cover the cost of preparing for the seminar.

Group seminars may be booked outside our regular hours of operation.




What happens if I book a private seminar for a group, but we have to cancel?


Please let us know a minimum of two weeks ahead of the date of the seminar and we will be able to refund 75% of the fee.

If you need to cancel within two weeks of the seminar date, the fee would not be refundable. However, we would be able to move your seminar to another date within one month of the original seminar date.




What is included with the online seminars?


When you purchase an online seminar, you will download a package of information. You can access this info at any time, and as many times as you like. You can also print it if you prefer a paper copy.





Resources

If I submit a question, are you my lawyer?


No. Submitting a question for the newsletter does not create a lawyer-client relationship. We are not retained by you to represent you in any capacity.




What happens to the information I submit?


All information is kept confidential. Identifying information such as names, specific locations, and details that may identify a party are omitted from the question for newsletter publication. We keep a copy of all questions and answers for our records. You may share the answer with whomever you choose. The answers provided are intended for individual use only.




How do I submit a question or comment for the newsletter?


Please send your question to chelsea@butlerwillsandestates.com. If your question is used in the newsletter, any personal or identifying information will be left out. Please make sure you have subscribed to the newsletter in order to read the answer.




Is it ok if I share the newsletter?


Absolutely. We encourage you to share the newsletter with anybody you think might find it helpful. If you would like to share the newsletter - in part or in total - on a social media platform, please cite the source as Butler Wills and Estates Consulting Services.





Probate/Administration

What is probate?


Probate is a court process that takes place after someone has passed away. The executor named in the will completes an application that tells the court who has passed away, who is involved, and what is in the estate. This application includes the original will. A judge at the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador reviews the will and application, and if everything is correct, issues a court order called "Letters of Probate". This court order indemnifies the executor, and lets various institutions (such as the bank and Canada Revenue Agency) know that the will is valid. Most of the time, this application is done on paper and nobody needs to appear in court. If the estate is being contested, a paper application may not be accepted.




How is administration different from probate?


Whether or not there is a will, and whether or not it is valid, determines if probate or administration is required. There are also a few different types of administration. Administration is required when someone has passed away without a will, or if there is a will that is not entirely valid. Being an administrator is very similar to being an executor. The application process is very similar to applying for probate, however, there are rules about who can complete the application. If there is no will, there is a hierarchy of who has the first right to apply to be the administrator. If there is a will that is partially or wholly invalid, the residuary beneficiaries are the people with the first right to apply to be administrator.




Can I apply for probate or administration on my own?


Yes, you can. These applications do not need to completed by a lawyer. However, you may wish to consult a lawyer to ensure you fully understand the situation and what your legal responsibilities are. Generally, if the estate is very simple and straightforward, you may be able to complete the application on your own, or by using one of our kits. For more complex estates, you may want to consider consulting an experienced estate lawyer.





LET'S TALK

Visit
34 Hamlyn Road
Hamlyn Road Plaza
St. John's, NL
 
We are located in the Hamlyn Road Plaza next to the Village Mall, between Peter's Pizza and Red Pepper Restaurant. There is a large sign that says Butler Law.
 
Monday to Thursday
9 AM to 5 PM
Closed Fridays
 
Mail
PO Box 39071
RPO Topsail Road
St. John's, NL
A1E 5Y7
 
Phone 709 221 5511
Fax 709 221 5510
 
chelsea@butlerwillsandestates.com 

 

If you'd like to book an appointment, give us feedback, register for a seminar, or ask a question of Lynne or Chelsea, please use the form provided, or contact us at the address or phone number above.

"You couldn't make it any easier. Do you know how much weight has been lifted?" - H.S.

 

"It seemed so overwhelming but you guys made it so easy" - D.C.

"We so appreciate all that Lynne and yourself have done to help us through this process. Your kindness and compassion have made all the difference... and of course the excellent legal advice and service. We knew from the moment we called that we were in great hands!"

- K.B and B.B.

"You've answered a lot of questions I've had for years"

- V.O.

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