Should I come to a Notary or a Lawyer for my Real Estate transactions?

BC Notary or Lawyer?

This is perhaps one of the most frequent questions come to mind when we have a need for real estates. Many people who come from other provinces or countries didn’t know that in British Columbia you can certainly hire a Notary to do a real estate transaction. Even BC residents get confused.

In order to answer this question, let’s explore the similarities and differences between a Notary and a Lawyer.

The Similarities:

Both BC Notaries and lawyers are fully legitimate to help you with real estate transactions such as buying or selling a house and mortgages.

Both are experts in the areas that we choose to practice. If we act for you in a residential real estate transaction, for example; our experience will help us to identify issues and deal with them before they become problems. In fact, Notaries do 70% of all residential real estate transactions in BC. We are highly trained and experienced in this area of law.

The Differences:

In education:

  • BC Notaries now complete both an undergraduate degree and a Master of Arts in Applied Legal Studies; as well as writing statutory exams administered by provincially appointed examiners.  They also must be accepted into The Society of Notaries Public of British Columbia.  BC Notaries have mandatory continuing education in the areas where we practice. BC Notaries are very well trained in the areas we practice.
  • Lawyers need both an undergraduate degree and a law degree. They also must pass a provincial examination and article at a law firm for a year before they practice. Lawyers start our as generalists, then typically get trained to specialize in i.e. criminal law, tax law, family law.

In legal matters:

  • BC Notaries do not represent clients in court and do not get involved in litigation. Notary work is restricted on non-contentious matters in which all parties involved have already reached an agreement, like in real estate transfers, mortgages and estate planning.
  • Lawyers may represent clients in court when there is a litigation. However the same lawyer who did your real estate transaction cannot represent you in court due to conflict of interest.

In services:

  BC Notaries BC Lawyers
Certified true copy X X
Affidavits X X
Statutory declarations X X
Travel consent letters X X
“Still alive” letters/certificates X X
Land Title documents from other provinces X X
Standard Wills X X
Representation Agreements X X
Executor appointments X X
Powers of Attorney X X
Residential conveyancing X X
Trust Wills   X
Separation agreements   X
Uncontested divorces   X
Prenuptial or cohabitation agreements   X
Incorporating a company   X
Annual corporate records   X
Probate   X


Still not sure which one you need?

All BC Notaries receive ongoing training in matters of real estate, wills and estate planning; as well as notarizations for use in Canada and around the world.

In British Columbia, all lawyers are also “notaries public” which means they can legally act in the same practice areas as BC Notaries. Some lawyers choose to practice in the traditional areas of BC Notaries.

Whether you choose a BC Notary or a lawyer, it is always essential to choose someone who specializes and experiences in the area that you need.

Listen to advice of friends, colleagues and ask for a referral. Check out the reviews online. Find someone you are comfortable with and feel that you can get to know, like and trust them.

Get in touch and we will be happy to answer any further questions.

Thoughts after a presentation at the Brain Injury Society

Today I presented to a group of brain injury survivors who attend support groups at the Victoria Brain Injury Society on the topic of Powers of Attorney.  The opportunity to talk with this group started with a simple conversation with Tamarynn at Vancity Credit Union.  When doing some business, we chatted …as anyone who knows me – I’m very good at this!  We discovered a common thread of having brain injury impact us in our lives.  Tamarynn volunteers with the Society and asked if I would be interested to give a talk to brain injury survivors about legal matters.  Answer. Without hesitation.  Yes.

Talking with brain injury survivors appealed personally.  Not because I have had a brain injury but three of my immediate family members have had with varying degrees of damage.  In the Winter 2019, Scrivener magazine, I wrote about health representation agreements and why these are important.  I also wrote about my Dad, “My Dad’s Story”.  My Dad fell down the stairs just before Christmas more than a decade ago.  He landed on his head and had a severe brain injury and paralysis.  He died twelve days later.  The youngest of my brothers was in a serious car crash back before wearing a seatbelt was mandatory.  His only injury was serious trauma to his head and brain.  He was never the same after that – in fact, he exhibited classic brain injury symptoms until he died.  And, my old son, at 13 years old, after doing a layup on the basket court, ricocheted off the wall and landed on ground where he was knocked out for one to two minutes.  He recovered after a couple weeks but could not fly across country on a March break trip to visit his paternal grandmother.  Accident, injury, and medical changes can impact us personally by happening to us, or to our loved ones.  For these reasons, it is important to have our Powers of Attorney in place.


My source of inspiration to help people is my own experiences with people close to me.  With a desire to implement best practices, I listen intently, objectively, to other folks experiences in order to broaden my awareness and understanding.  Not only does it help as a professional, but I can be a better citizen.  The group I spoke to were talkative, bright , and had excellent questions. For example, what’s the difference between a notary and a lawyer?  Can I use a power of attorney in another jurisdiction?  Who should I choose?  What about online and computer accesses?  These are frequent questions that I get in the course of any given day.  The two hour presentation went fast because the group was engaged and interactive.  Perhaps the biggest message that I left them with is that a Power of Attorney is an amazing and helpful tool when you really need it.  But …the big BUT is that the people appointed to help aren’t always excellent or amazing.  That’s why helping others to understand and make good choices is parament to the process.

Let’s be clear.  As a person, I have a zero tolerance for financial abuse of any kind.  These standards translate to my approach in helping clients with preparing for a Power of Attorney document.  Empowering people, who are giving authority to an attorney, to know and understand how a Power of Attorney works, and that it is their document to own and control gives a healthy way to move forward.  The power given to another to act on our behalf is great, so in our group we spent a lot of time reviewing who you would choose to act as your agent under a Power of Attorney.  What qualities do they need?

Here are some of the traits to examine or questions that need to be asked about the person or persons being considered to act on your behalf:

*   Is it a Relationship of trust?   *   Their Ethics   *   Their Personal Finances  *

*   Their Relationship to You       *   Their Location   *   Their Availability   *

*   Their Ability to Organize and Do Paperwork   * Their Ability to Collaborate   *

*   Their Understanding of their Duties

The first point identified in our British Columbia Powers of Attorney Act under the duties identified by law is that the attorney must act honestly and in good faith.

Most of these people in attendance have had serious accidents (i.e. biking) or sudden illness propelling them into a new world where requiring help from many angles is essential during their recovery and rehabilitation.  Apparently Powers of Attorney is a topic that comes up frequently in the brain injury survivors weekly meetings.  The group expressed appreciation to be able to ask questions openly to further their understanding of the Power of Attorney document. I believe I left them with an awareness of how to choose the best person, and that once they do, it’s then it’s possible to put in some clauses that define how those people (the attorneys) are allowed to act for on their behalf.  Ultimately, each person’s context is different and subtle.  It is my job as a Notary Public to best understand my clients through open and intimate dialogue in order to guide them through the process.  Ultimately, I left them with the final thought that finances can suffer in the event of a trauma, but if they have a Power of Attorney, they have back up.

Beverly Carter 


BC Notaries Association – Fall 2019 Conference

I just finished our fall Notary conference. As I wait for my plane to return home, it’s good to take the time to reflect on the past couple days.

Our professional body, The Society of Notaries Public of BC, comes together twice a year to learn and keep up to date with current practices, legal precedents, judge’s decisions on matters that relate to our areas of law, and to engage in meaningful discussions with our notary colleagues. I’m always impressed with the information sharing, depth of knowledge, and breadth of experience found around any given table where I sit. And I wish I had more opportunities to meet with my colleagues from around the province.

This year’s conference was extra special in that we spun off the trade part of our professional body which is now called the BC Notaries Association. We held our election & inducted our first full board of directors, several whom were in my Masters degree & professional training cohort. The mandate of the association is to advocate, continually educate, and promote our notary services and profession.

It’s an exciting time to be a notary as generally first world countries are seeking to make legal services more accessible to citizens. And, BC is no different. BC Notaries have developed a trusted tradition based on grassroots delivery of legal services throughout British Columbia which forms an excellent foundation to build additional services. Our clients regularly walk in expecting us to be able to assist in trusts in Wills, standard court probate, cohabitation agreements, simple family law matters, business corporation setup and other similar services. They are disappointed when we cannot meet their needs.  We look forward to working on gaining these additional services and continuing to provide excellence in legal services to the public in British Columbia.

Beverly Carter

Volunteer Appreciation Week

April 7-13, 2019 is Volunteer Appreciation Month and we love being involved with our community.

Wonder Woman one day, Cat Woman the next.  Who knew that mild mannered Vicky, notary assistant by day, turns into a Superhero at night!  Here’s a Superhero shout out to the Superheroes of Victoria where Vicky spends some quality and fun time helping to bring fun and joy to people who are combatting some difficult times in their life.

Vicky regularly steps out with the Superheroes of Victoria.  As a volunteer group, the Superheroes are a resource for charitable organizations who can call upon them to attend events and support fundraising efforts – all while sporting superhero costumes.  Vicky’s super power includes the ability to look and act the part of a Superhero, but also put the finishing touches on others.

The Superheroes pitched a fundraising idea to the Help Fill a Dream Foundation (HFADF).  And now, for the second year in a row, the Superheroes of Victoria, have teamed up with the Foundation where the end goal is to create a calendar that features eleven amazing kids who’ve have not only demonstrated strength and courage while battling their illness, chronic pain or other health challenges, but who stand out in their own right.  These kids show a compassion and drive in their own missions to help make their communities a better place.  A twelfth month is dedicated to a community organization that embodies the values of the Help Fill a Dream Foundation.

The kids apply for the opportunity to shine on one of the calendar months.  After being selected, they become a “Junior Superhero – the Superheroes work with the kids who select their own ‘Alter-ego’.  The volunteer group creates a whole experience where the Junior Superhero receives Hollywood style treatment, a photo shoot, starring role in a calendar, and a ‘Superheroes for the Day’ launch party.  Craig Smith, executive director of Help Fill A Dream Foundation says, “[The calendar] allows parents and kids that are involved to see themselves in a different light … it allows them to not be hindered or hampered by anything else that’s going on in their lives. They’re bigger than their health or medical condition.”

The aim this year is to raise $30,000.00 with the sale of the calendar, enough to provide funds to fulfil three dreams for Vancouver Island children.  The production of the calendar is ambitious, but the dedicated Superheroes flex their muscles, imagination, and special talents to make it all come true.  In addition to helping select the new Junior Superheroes, Vicky works on the set, and ultimately puts her photo and technical editing skills to develop each child’s final calendar image.

On November 3rd, 2018, our office had the pleasure to support Vicky and the Help Fill a Dream Foundation launch of the calendar.  It was a formal event to honour both the children and their families.  The final images were top secret until the launch – each child or family member shared some special words about their own particular journey.  When asked about her own efforts, Vicky observes, “Watching the joy on the children’s expression as they see their image for the first time is a perfect reminder of why volunteering is so important. The opportunity to give to someone experiencing hardship and being able to lift their spirits is so rewarding.”

Not only is Vicky, Cat Woman, Wonder Woman, or any Superhero she wants to be, she’s a Superhero every single day.  Her values and attitudes toward helping others apply just as much in her day to day activities in the Notary Public office as it does outside working hours.  Always bright, cheerful, and smiling.  Always willing to step up and go above and beyond.  And, always giving.  Here’s a shout out to Vicky who is a Superhero in her own right.

Victoria Helmink is an assistant to Beverly Carter Notary Public, in Victoria, BC, where she’s worked for over three years.

Will Wednesday: Two charities named as beneficiaries — should we be concerned?

Q. Charities as Beneficiaries

There are two charities named as beneficiaries — should we be concerned?

A. Charitable Organizations can be Professional Beneficiaries

Modern corporate governance require charities to no longer be simply patient and grateful to receive a bequest. Many charities are now much more diligent in their review of executor performance, and less likely to forgive any errors that impact the financial value of their bequest. Certain prominent charities describe themselves as “professional beneficiaries”; they may try to impose strict rules upon the administration of the estate. This may include litigation against the executor if the organization believes that such action will improve the financial result.

To begin making your Will go to the Will Questionnare.

Will Wednesday: Just in case we forget something, we are planning to hold back money from distribution until we’re more comfortable. Is this an issue?

Q. Just in case we forget something, we are planning to hold back money from distribution until we’re more comfortable. Is this an issue?

A. Maybe not. Withholding money to allow for contingencies may be prudent if you can establish good grounds for doing so. Beneficiaries are not consistently patient with this practice and sometimes take legal issue with it.

Will Wednesday: We put Mom’s investments and her house in our joint names. Who gets the money?

Q. We put Mom’s investments and her house in our joint names. Who gets the money?

A. Many individuals conclude, often incorrectly, that the ownership of joint investments or real estate holdings pass to the joint account holder automatically when ·the other account holder dies. A joint account, including ownership of property and or financial assets, is a common and growing area of potential litigation in estate administration. It can have serious tax and estate implications for all parties involved.

Will Wednesday: After acting as a parent’s Enduring Power of Attorney for Property- should we be concerned if we also act as executor?

Q. After acting as a parent’s Enduring Power of Attorney for Property- should we be concerned if we also act as executor?

A. Beneficiaries are often much more vigilant in examining the actions of the executor who has previously managed the financial affairs of the deceased. Some beneficiaries, including charitable organizations to which the decedent has left a gift, may look critically at executor performance following their activities as power of attorney.

Will Wednesday: What kinds of tasks am I responsible for as executor?

Q. What kinds of tasks am I responsible for as executor?

A. This is a brief summary of tasks pertaining to the financial aspects of your duties. There are a number of non-financial related tasks that must be performed as well.
– obtaining the probated will of the decedent;
– advertising for and/or notifying creditors and
– claimants/beneficiaries;
– accounting for the assets and liabilities of the estate;
– collecting and securing the assets of the estate;
– protecting the assets of the estate;
– paying the liabilities of the estate and collecting any receivables
– filing final tax returns of the estate
– verifying claims against the estate; liquidating the assets of the estate. distributing the assets of the estate
– and accounting for the administration of the estate

Will Wednesday: Does my home insurance cover liabilities occurring when acting as an executor?

Q. Does my home insurance cover liabilities occurring when acting as an executor?

A. No, typical home insurance covers injuries and property damage to other parties but does not cover estate administration errors that result in financial loss to other parties.