Is Marriage the New Dating? How Wills and Estates Lawyering Must Adapt in the 21st Century

It’s a classic scenario — a couple walks into my law office to talk about their wills and powers of attorney, only to find me asking them unexpected questions about their intimate relationship(s);

-Are you married, dating or in a common law scenario?
-If you are married/common law, is this your first one?
-If not, have you already effected a legal divorce?
-If you have children, are they also the biological children of your partner?
-If so, how old are the children?

And the list goes on…

I won’t bore you with all of the nuances as to why I ask these questions; wills and estates law is complicated and it’s the lawyers’ job to know the ins and outs — not the clients’. But the answers to these questions are game changers in terms of whether one’s estate plan can be carried out in accordance with their wishes.

Let’s start here — if I were interviewing a client for a will/power of attorney 100 years ago, I probably wouldn’t even think to ask whether they had ever been divorced. Back then divorces were uncommon. But now marriages end in divorce all the time, and that’s why my family law colleagues often say, “marriage is the new dating”. (FYI these same colleagues introduced me to a fun wedding game called “who are the divorce lawyers going to be”? I think the gist of the game is self-explanatory… we really are a lovely bunch).

Regardless, when it comes to wills/estates planning, as mentioned, the state of one’s intimate relationship(s) becomes critical. Although I promised not to bore you with all of the nuances, I’m going to temporarily break that promise to name a few facts to illustrate my point:

-In many jurisdictions a will is considered null and void if the person gets divorced.
-If you are separated but not divorced, and you change your will to divest your spouse, in many jurisdictions (and definitely in Manitoba) your separated spouse will still remain entitled to a portion of your estate under certain circumstances.
-If you divest your children when they are still under the age of majority, they can still be entitled under your will in many jurisdictions (including Manitoba).

In other words, for your true wishes to be carried out under your will — it must be prepared in accordance with particular laws in your jurisdiction that happen to touch on the intersection of your intimate relationship(s).

Did you know all these things? Well, the majority of people don’t. And that’s because most people don’t spend 10 hours a day drafting and researching in this area of law. But for wills and estates lawyers, the job now goes a lot further than just converting one’s wishes onto paper. It involves a strong working knowledge of family law, an ability to ask people the tough questions and to engage in personal conversations.

Like everything else in this world, lawyering must change with the times. And the dynamics of intimate relationships in the 21st Century have drastically changed…so lawyers must adapt.

Joshua Slayen is a Lawyer and Notary Public at George & Tweed Law Corporation in Transcona, Winnipeg.


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You probably missed the terrible Wheel of Time TV series pilot on Monday

With no fanfare and no advance advertising, a short “series pilot” for Robert Jordan’s epic 15-volume fantasy series The Wheel of Time aired Monday morning at 1:30am (EDT) on FXX. io9 has a pretty good breakdown of the how and why behind the seemingly out-of-nowhere pilot, explaining that the oddly shot, oddly acted pilot ran during a “client supplied” time block—in other words, paid infomercial territory.

Produced by Red Eagle Entertainment, the short program (titled “The Winter Dragon”) wasn’t exactly the grand on-screen adaptation that series fans have been asking for since the 1990s. At just about 30 minutes in length, it covers only the prologue of The Eye of the World, the first book in the series. Archvillain Ishamael confronts arch-hero Lews Therin Telamon—known as “The Dragon”—shortly after Lews Therin’s defeat in a world-rending war between good and evil; Lews Therin has been driven mad by an attack by the Dark One, Shai’tan, and that madness has led him to kill all of his relatives. Ishamael appears, cleanses Lews Therin of madness so that Lews Therin can behold the horror of what he’s done, and then boom, the prologue is over and we’re into the first chapter.

What makes for a relatively quick few pages in the book is stretched out over thirty interminable, plodding minutes onscreen, including three long commercial breaks. Max Ryan’s delivery of his lines as Lews Therin can best be characterized as “ghastly” (“Light forgive me. Light forgive me. Light…forgive me,” he says in an emotion-free monotone), and Billy Zane (yes, that Billy Zane) as Ishamael acts less like the godhood-obsessed Betrayer of Hope in the books and more like Cal from Titanic.

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Google announces I/O 2015 for May 28-29

Google has just launched the event site for I/O 2015, and while it is mostly devoid of information, it does nail down the date: May 28-29.

I/O is Google’s annual developer conference, which lately has turned into a product launch extravaganza. Last year the company announced the Android L preview, Material Design, Android TV, Android Wear, and Android Auto at the show.

For now the site is pretty bare bones. We’ll have a better idea of what to expect from I/O 2015 when Google posts names and descriptions for each session.

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Who Loses When Organizations Overspend on Team Recreation?

For some time now, I have been on my soapbox about organizations substituting team recreation for team building and overspending in this area. I have long predicted that this would lead to severe restrictions in spending for team building and corporate events.

Well, as a result of this programme that cost over US$268,000, federal workers in Washington are now feeling the pinch.


A couple of days ago, The Washington Post reported on the fallout from the clampdown by the Obama administration due to the outrage over this spending.

Here are some of the unintended consequences:

When federal employees get together for training and meetings, fancy lunches aren’t on the menu anymore. In fact, food of any kind — tuna fish sandwiches, green salad, oatmeal cookies — can no longer be served by the government. Even coffee is off-limits.

Scientists at the Food and Drug Administration and other agencies say they can no longer travel to academic conferences to present their research.

And mental-health workers at military hospitals say they are in danger of losing their licenses because they can’t attend refresher courses.

When I originally typed the following words in April, 2006 (and reprinted them on my team building blog in 2009, never did I foresee this backlash coming from the Government sector.

Why Companies are Cutting Team Building

One day the money is flowing freely. Eventually, someone in the executive suite says

“Hey wait a minute, we’ve spent $1 million dollars (or $5 million and even more when one factors in the indirect costs like salaries for the participants) for drumming, hot air ballooning, paint ball, or grape stomping (that was once featured on The Apprentice).

  • Where’s the value?
  • How much time was spent debriefing the activity and drawing links to our business?
  • Were and business or planning exercises part of these sessions? How did this further the business?
  • How did this improve performance or team interaction?”

Suddenly, “poof” the money is gone and suddenly team building is something we used to do.

If you want to ensure that your budget for team building gets cut, treat it like a commodity. Give the most inexperienced person in your team the responsibility for contacting prospective suppliers. Give them very little guidance. After all you’re busy right? They’ll focus strictly on the activities and shortlist based on what sounds like the most “fun”.

They won’t be able to answer questions like

  • “What are your objectives for this session?”
  • “What major challenges is your team facing?”
  •  “What specific improvements do you want to see in organizational and team performance?”

They’ll present you with options based what’s “fun” or what’s cheapest. When making your selection, go for the latest fad, what’s hot and the flavour of the month. Eventually, the money for team building will disappear from your company’s budget as it has in other organizations. It’s guaranteed.

On the other hand, if you really want team building to be a value added, give careful attention to clarifying your objectives. Allow sufficient time for defining your team building strategy, planning and implementation.

I have recently compared notes with a number of representatives from team building companies in the USA and Canada. They are all reporting that the off-site team building retreat seems to have gone the way of the dinosaur. Bad practices by too many companies have been slowly killing it.

This should be a wake-up call to all organizations in both the public and private sectors. “Use it or lose it” no longer prevails. The new mantra is “Use it wisely, or lose it.”

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