Estate Potholes on the Web

If you cruise the Web looking for legal information about wills or estates, beware!

Information you find about estate planning or about an estate executor’s duties may not apply to you.

There are different estate laws in each jurisdiction. When it comes to wills and estates, a lot depends on what side of the Canadian-American border you live on.

Federal income tax laws are different on each side of the border. Canada has no federal estate inheritance tax on the overall size of the person’s estate. In the United States, reducing gift and estate taxes can require sophisticated estate planning.

Each province or state may have specific estate laws that apply to their citizens and property located within their borders. For example, provincial probate taxes are calculated differently and at various rates in each province.

Search Tips to Remember About Estates

1. Start your Internet searches by limiting them to your particular jurisdiction.

2. Never assume that what you read on the Internet is legal advice that applies to you.

3. Replies to your e-mail inquiry are also not substitutes for legal advice on your particular situation.

When it comes to advertising, law firms are not allowed to make claims about their competence or guarantee results. They must always act with integrity. Bragging or boastful claims to be the best should be signs of danger ahead.

Lawyers have a license to practice law in a particular jurisdiction. Make sure you have not accidentally crossed the border while you are searching.

If you are a member of the public, it is important to know information you’re reading and how it may apply to you.

Check to make sure the geographic location of the lawyer’s offices is in the correct province if you’re looking for information.

Legal Advice Versus Legal Information on Wills and Estates

There’s an important distinction between researching general legal information and getting legal advice.

Before giving legal advice, lawyers must always be careful to:

• avoid any conflict of interest with an existing client
• receive and keep information confidential
• not answer questions without identifying all necessary background information to avoid errors

What is a Conflict of Interest?

Having a conflict means of a lawyer cannot advise or represent both sides in a dispute.

A lawyer cannot accidentally give advice to someone who is in conflict with an existing client. That is why you find most law firms’ websites contain privacy terms disclaimers, warnings and terms of use.

Reputable law firms will confirm what appears on the website or blog is not legal advice.

Communicating any information that is sensitive confidential electronically can be dangerous.

Therefore, if you are reading information from this website or blog, you must understand the terms of use. You can only obtain legal advice for your specific particular situation after:

a) a face-to-face meeting
b) an identity and conflict check and
c) you sign a retainer agreement.

Don’t think all estate lawyers are the same.

Get advice from an experienced estate lawyer who understands your situation. With help, you can steer around dangerous estate potholes.

2009 © All rights reserved. You may reprint this article provided you credit the author and this website as its source.

This information is not financial, legal, tax advice or a substitute for professional advice. Always consult with a professional before taking any action.

Ed Olkovich B.A. LL.B C.S. TEP is a Toronto lawyer, certified specialist in Estates and Trusts Law. Ed is frequently quoted as one of Canada’s leading estate experts. He is the author of several books including Executor Kung Fu and Estate to the Heart, both available at or by calling 416.769.9800.

Contact Ed Olkovich’s office here or call 416-769-9800 to arrange a consultation today.