Understanding Your Legal Real Estate Invoice – Why Cheaper Is Not Always Better

I am constantly receiving calls from prospective Purchaser and Vendor clients, looking for me to provide them with a quote for my legal fees.  The unfortunate truth is that competition within the legal field has caused prices to drop, which on its face seems good for clients, but these low legal fees can cause lawyers to cut corners, and not give files the attention they deserve.  This blog post hopefully will explain why “cheaper is not always better”.

The cost of your lawyer’s fee is small comparative to Realtor commission, land transfer tax, and mortgage financing.  But, the role of your lawyer is anything but small in a real estate transaction.  Your lawyer is a professional hired to protect your legal interests.  It is your lawyer who will ensure you are taking good and clear title, and will deal with post closing issues, such as mortgage discharges, damage to the property prior to closing, and appliances in poor working order, to name a few scenarios.

Don’t make the mistake of choosing a lawyer based on a few hundred dollars.  Here are some important questions you need to ask your real estate lawyer (this list is not exhausted by any means):

  1. Does their fee include Title Insurance?  Title insurance can be upwards of $400.00, and it is important to know whether it is included.  Title insurance protects title to your home from liens, unpaid taxes, and boundary issues.
  2. Will your lawyer order a Tax Certificate?  When purchasing a home, it is important for your lawyer to order a tax certificate to determine whether there are any unpaid taxes.  A majority of lawyers today do not order a tax certificate, but instead rely on Title Insurance to deal with the issue of unpaid taxes.
  3. Will your lawyer be available?  This is an issue that a lot of clients don’t consider.  When I bought my first house I met only once with the lawyer handling our file.  All other communication was redirected to the lawyer’s assistants and secretaries.  In a lot of law firms it is those assistants and secretaries that are actually doing the bulk of the work.  Although qualified, you as a client are not paying for the time of an assistant or secretary.  Your legal fee should be based on the time and expertise of the lawyer personally.

As a lawyer who understands the need to be in contact with my clients, I am always available by phone and email, and am the only person who will work on your file.  I pride myself on personal service, and understand that clients sometimes need their hand held through what can be a confusing and stressful process.  Remember, the process does not end after you’ve hired a realtor.  Your lawyer will be the one to protect your interests during and after closing.

Please send me an email at annalise@brooklinlawyer.ca should you have any questions.  I would love to provide you with references from satisfied clients who know that when they hire me, I am there for them.

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De Bartolo-Morgan Law and the Mamas & Chicks Holiday Show

This year De Bartolo-Morgan Law is taking part in the Mamas & Chicks Holiday Show on Friday November 22nd, 2013. There will be raffles, swag bags, and lots of amazing businesses catered to moms, dads, children and families. It should be a lot of fun, and we hope to see you there!

For free tickets to the event, please email Annalise at annalise@brooklinlawyer.ca.

Check out the event website here — www.mamasandchicks.com

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Avoiding Land Transfer Tax the Second Time Around

I learned something new today that I thought would be useful to not only my clients, but also my colleagues, as I was given conflicting information by a few lawyers I know who really didn’t know the answer.

A client of mine was put on title to her daughter’s house when she originally purchased it because her daughter could not qualify for her mortgage without her mother’s assistance. The bank then required the mother to also be an owner of the property.

Fast forward five years later. The daughter is now refinancing her property, but now she can afford her mortgage without her mother. As a result, the bank wanted her mother removed from title. To remove someone from title, even when it seems as though it is just a formality as in this case, you must register a transfer of title, which triggers land transfer tax (which they’d already paid when they originally purchased the property).

After speaking with a few lawyers, mortgage brokers, and the bank, no one seemed to know how to avoid this duplicate tax. I then contacted the City of Toronto and the Ministry of Finance, and finally found the correct answer.

Because this is a very common occurrence for young purchaser’s, I think it is important for my clients to know how to avoid this problem in future. In order to avoid the Land Transfer Tax, an affidavit and supporting documentation had to be filed with both the City of Toronto and the Ministry of Finance to prove that the mother in this case was only a Trustee, holding the property for her daughter who was the Beneficial Owner.

Seems simple enough, however, the time it took to look in to the issue, as well as produce and gather the supporting documentation required was very time consuming, and could be quite costly to clients if they encountered this situation (or in the alternative, paying Land Transfer Tax twice).

How can parents and children avoid these extra costs in the future? Write up a Trust Agreement before the parent/guardian is put on title. In the agreement specify that the parent is only being put on title as a Trustee so that the Beneficial Owner will qualify for financing. When the time comes for refinancing, the Beneficial Owner can just file this agreement to avoid Land Transfer Tax, saving time and money. Hopefully that helps a few people.

For more information about our services and fees contact us at annalise@brooklinlawyer.ca, and LIKE our Facebook page at De Bartolo-Morgan Law. Thanks for reading!

More: Check out our handy Land Transfer Tax info and calculator page

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The 5 Most Important Reasons To Have A Lawyer Draft Your Will Today

Of all the areas of law I practice, it is Will drafting that most often gets put on the back burner by clients. I have waited years for some clients to get me the information I require to begin drafting their Wills. Why? Because drafting a Will causes feelings to surface that understandably people are not comfortable with. We all want to think of ourselves as young, vibrant, and sometimes immortal. Thinking of the day we pass is surreal, and so people put their Wills off for another time. Don’t make this mistake. Life is uncertain. Have your Will drafted now, and then you won’t have to think about it again. It won’t be this nagging thing on your “to do list”, and you can be confident that your affairs are in order.

Don’t delay any longer – contact us at annalise@brooklinlawyer.ca.


Even with a properly drafted Will, in Ontario your named Guardian(s) must apply to a court of competent jurisdiction to be awarded guardianship of your children. This gives other family members, friends, or other people with important information an opportunity to challenge your decision as to who will be your children’s guardian. That being said, the Court will give great weight to the person(s) you have chosen, and unless there is overwhelming evidence that the person(s) you have chosen would be a harm to your children, they are most likely to grant Guardianship to the people you have named in your Will. Now can you imagine not having a Will at all? Without a Will you have absolutely no say on who will care for and raise your children. In a perfect world we would all hope that our family would get along, and make a decision that they know you would want. But in reality, without having expressed your wishes, families are more prone to fight. In-laws and aunts and uncles all may feel right for the job. Don’t leave the care of your children up to chance, and possibly create a hostile family environment in which your children will have to live. Make it clear in your Will.


Not everyone will have children or a spouse when they pass away, which leaves the question of where your property goes unanswered. If you haven’t answered this question with a property drafted Will, it will be the Government who decides who gets what. Depending on what living family you have at the time of your death, your property could pass as far as distant cousins, maybe even someone you’ve never met. Remember, you spent your whole life working for what you have – you should make the decision who will benefit from your hard work. Family, friends, or charities – whoever it is, will miss out if you don’t make it clear in a Will.


I have heard countless times from friends and clients that they are “just buying a Will Kit” rather than having a lawyer draft their Will. In no uncertain terms, this is a mistake. A Will Kit is general to a fault, and leaves you no ability to decide on the way in which your family and friends will receive your property. An important example of this is the property that will pass to your children when you die. Once your child has reached the age of 18, the money and property you’ve passed on in your Will is theirs – there will be no guardian to help them manage it, and no guidelines for the way in which they can spend it. Think about this for a minute. Can you image entrusting an 18 year old child with potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars? The chances that they would deal with this money responsibly are very slim. By having a lawyer properly draft your Will, you can create Trusts that will protect the money in your estate for your children’s future. You can specify who you want to control the trust on behalf of your children, at what age you want them to receive the money, and any special instructions (ie: allow my child to buy a car at age 16). Without the knowledge and expertise a lawyer brings to the planning of your estate, you could allow your children to squander your life’s savings, leaving nothing for their futures.


Without a Will, or even with a poorly drafted Will, your wishes may be unclear or unknown to your family and friends. The more unclear you are, or if you have neglected to leave your wishes at all, the more potential for family conflict there is. Everyone knows the stress and sadness that comes from the passing of a loved one. Even though it may be hard to imagine, that will be our families grieving for us one day. Alleviate one of the burdens by making your wishes perfectly clear, in a well drafted Will that is easily executed after your passing. Even if the passing of your property is not your primary concern, consider these other decisions to be made that you may want a say in: a) who will be your executor, and administer your Will, b) funeral arrangements – you may have special instructions like cremation, and c) who will be the guardians of your children. These are but a few examples.


Simply put, without the tax planning that a Lawyer can provide, you may be giving money away to the Government upon your death. Seek legal counsel to ensure that you are taking advantage of every tax break possible, and preserving this money for your family.

Contact us at annalise@brooklinlawyer.ca.

Posted in Blog

Preparing for the possibility of mortgage rate interest hikes

The steady decline of mortgage rates may in fact prove to be dangerous to current homeowners on a tight budget.  I have heard from many of my peers working in the mortgage industry that an increasing amount of homebuyers are being approved for mortgages based on the monthly costs associated with a low interest rate.  The concern from professionals is that once interest rates rise, and presumably they will as current rates are historically and uncommonly low, those same homebuyers will fail to be approved for refinancing on their current mortgages.

The cost of a $300,000.00 mortgage amortized over 25 years at 2.99% interest fixed over 5 years is $1,418.20 monthly.  That number changes drastically when the interest rate is increased to 5%, with a $1,744.82 monthly payment.

As some of us know, a 5% interest rate is not uncommon, and was commonplace only a few years ago.  This jump in interest, and subsequently a homeowner’s monthly mortgage costs, could cause people to be denied refinancing, resulting in the loss of family homes.

I thought the article below was very useful in terms of advising homeowners to prepare and protect themselves against possible interest hikes.  To summarize, the article advises homeowners to select lower amortization periods so that their mortgage payments are slightly higher to begin with.  The benefits are 1) the homeowner is working to pay off their mortgage faster and 2) if there was an interest rate jump, the homeowner could increase their amortization period, and be protected as they’ve already included a cushion in their current payments.

Click here to read the article

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Welcome to the new home of De Bartolo-Morgan Law

Welcome to my new site, and very first blog post.  Please take an opportunity to have a look through my new website.  I am excited to be introducing the new and improved De Bartolo-Morgan Law to Brooklin, Whitby, and all of Durham Region.

Some things that have changed include a narrowing of my practice areas.  De Bartolo-Morgan Law will now be specializing in Real Estate, Wills, and Corporate Law.  By concentrating my focus, I hope to meet the needs of Durham Region residents.

I welcome all my clients, as well as potential clients, to peruse the websites of other local law offices.  I am confident that my prices are among the lowest in Durham Region, and the quality of legal services are second to none.  I would also welcome visitors to my website to read through client testimonials.  My approach to personal legal services has been widely praised by my clients.

Anyone who has previously dealt with a law office may have experienced a rather intimidating and impersonal atmosphere.  At De Bartolo-Morgan Law, I insist on personal service.  Clients are able to reach me via email or phone, and are not passed between secretaries.  My clients get what they are paying for, the time and expertise of a lawyer.  In addition, we offer a comfortable and inviting space, where clients can feel at ease.

I will be updating my blog on a regular basis, with updates on everything and anything my clients may find helpful, including real estate trends, changes in the law, and local developments.  Please sign up via email for updates to my blog.

Thanks for visiting my website, and I hope to work with you soon.  – Annalise

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Land Transfer Tax Calculator