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Five Estate Planning Tips for Canadian Online Business Owners

estate planning Mar 11, 2022

No one wants to talk about death.  I totally get it.  But as Benjamin Franklin famously said "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."

So for business owners, including online business owners, it is important to do some planning to protect the value of the business.  Some planning in advance will also save your grieving family members from additional expenses, hassle and paperwork.

Why should I care - I'll be Dead!

One of the inspirations for writing this article originally was a CBC article featuring my friend Dianne Taylor.   Dianne's grief was compounded when her spouse Tim died suddenly and had not been aware that his RRSP designation was still in favour of his mother, not his spouse.  The laws of Nova Scotia did not help her recover their retirement savings.

If you think that you don't need to worry about your estate planning because you will be dead, think about your family.  They will be...

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When Should I Incorporate My Business in Canada?

Three Choices of Legal Structures in Canada 

If you are operating a business in Canada, you have three choices in terms of the legal structure:

  1. Sole Proprietorship
  2. Partnership
  3. Corporation/Company

Sole Proprietorship - Pros and Cons

 As a Sole Proprietorship, the business is NOT a separate legal entity.  The business owner directly owns the assets of the business and is directly responsible for the liabilities of the business.  If the business has a separate name from the owner’s name, you need to register the business name with the applicable Corporate Registry.


  • Simple to Form
  • Least Expensive
  • Easy to Wind up if Business Ends 


  • No Liability Protection
  • No Potential Tax Planning Benefits
  • Only Suitable for One Owner

Tips for Reducing the Potential Liability of Sole Proprietorships

The lack of liability protection is the biggest potential CON of a sole proprietorship.  A business owner can reduce the risks...

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Do you know the differences between hiring employees and contractors in your Canadian business?

What are the legal differences between hiring an employee versus hiring an independent contractor?

Are you planning to hire people to help you grow your business?  Congratulations!  This is an important step for every business.  It is important to understand the legal implications.

Liability Considerations

  • EmployeesThe business becomes “vicariously liable” for all of the actions of an employee.  The business owns the employee mistakes.  
  • Contractors - The Contractor remains liable for their own actions, including potential mistakes. They should get their own licenses and insurance to cover these.

Making Remittances to Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)

  • Employees - The business is responsible legally to make tax and other remittances on behalf of the Employee - Income Tax, EI, CPP.   These amounts become liabilities of the business and can become a liability of the owner. 
  • Contractors - The Contractor is...
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Are Waivers Legit and Can They Protect My Business?

contracts Jul 16, 2021

Have you ever been about to ride a horse, jump in a kayak or play hockey and someone sticks a clipboard in front of you at the last minute, asking you to sign a waiver?  

I have had the question many times - "Are these Waivers legit?  Do they work?" 

They can be if you are doing them right.  

Purpose of Waivers

If there is a particular risk in your business that you want the client or customer to be responsible for AND NOT THE BUSINESS, you can shift this responsibility in a waiver.

When to Get a Waiver Signed

One party - your customer - wants to participate in a risky activity (skiing, trampoline, zip line, etc.). and the other party - your business wants to protect itself from liabilities relating to this activity.

In exchange, the customer signs a waiver and release regarding liability claims in order to participate.  If they do not wish to sign, they can not participate.

This could be in a volunteer or business activity - it may be the...

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Five Legal Steps to Start Your Canadian Coaching Business on the Right Foot

coaching May 04, 2021

In the past three years, I have helped many coaches, from business coaches to health coaches to life coaches (and many more) to start and grow their businesses online.

Here are my five legal steps to help you start your Canadian Coaching business on the right foot, whatever your type of coaching practice.

  1. Choose a legal structure and register your business in your province.  

When you start a business in Canada, you have a choice of three legal structures - sole proprietorship, a partnership, or a corporation.  

Most businesses start as a sole proprietorship because it is the most simple and inexpensive way to start.  If you start this way, you can change your legal structure down the road when you grow.

Sole Proprietorship

Running your coaching business as a sole proprietorship is the most simple and straightforward option.  You don’t need to create a separate legal entity, but you're required to register a business name if you're using a name...

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How Can I Use Licensing to Grow My Business?

Licensing is simply giving another person or business the right to use your property with certain conditions for a fee. In the online space, this is usually copyright-protected works (like photos, videos or an online course or membership) or trademarks (like a brand logo).

If you are a creator of content, learning about content will help you understand how to protect your content but also what rights to offer in order to scale and grow.

If you want to use other people's content or brand, learning about licensing will help you understand what to look for in a licensing relationship.

I get many questions about licensing from physical product creators as well (like crafters and makers) who want to give some limited rights to their creations to other people or businesses to use for a fee.

When you listen to your new favourite tune on Spotify or Apple Music, you are using the music pursuant to certain licensing terms. Same when you purchase a stock photo or make an image on Canva.

Like most...

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Avoid Nasty Surprises with Proper Insurance Coverage for Your Online Business

Having commercial insurance for your online business is an important part of your risk management strategies, along with having written contracts and considering your legal structure.

There are five important types of commercial insurance that you should consider for your online business:

Commercial General Liability Policy ("CGL")

A CGL policy is the basic liability policy that every business requires.  You may think of it as relating to having a physical space, but it also includes some important additional coverages. 

A CGL policy primarily covers two main risks  (1) Bodily Injury to third parties - think someone slipping and falling on your premises and (2) Property damage to third party property.  These could happen on your business premises, on public property or at a client’s premises and could result from your actions or inactions of you or your employees.

A CGL policy may also contain important extensions including a Non-Owned Automobile Liability...

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Getting Paid As A Business Owner and How a Legal Contract Can Help

contracts Feb 12, 2021

You did the work.  Now your client is not paying.  What are you supposed to do?

You want to preserve the relationship and not be too confrontational but not getting paid is an issue for your cash flow and the financial stability of your business.

Here are some tips for collecting accounts receivable now outstanding, and improving the situation in the future:

Check the Contract

While legal contracts can help you to set clear expectations with your clients up front, they are also super helpful in a situation where your clients are not paying you.

Having a binding legal contract means that you can ENFORCE the terms of the contract.  So the first thing to check is to see what the contract says in regard to fees and payment terms.

Are the fees due clear in your client contract? Your client contract should state how fees will be calculated whether they are hourly, daily or fixed fees based on certain project stages.  Have you added on amounts for additional work beyond...

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5 Legal Tips and Templates for Podcasters

Podcasts continue to grow in popularity, including for business owners who are looking to generate new leads, establish their expertise and grow their community.

As with other aspects of business, there are some legal issues to be considered.  Here are my top 5 legal tips:

#1 - The content of your podcast is protected by copyright law and owned by the host.

This copyright protection, which is worldwide, is automatic upon creation.  The creator of the podcast (the host) has the exclusive right to use this content unless permission (i.e. a license) is given.  You can assert your rights through a copyright notice - i.e. (c) Legal Essentials Inc. 2021.  All Rights Reserved.  Advanced tip - if you have co-hosts for your podcast, you should agree on who owns what upfront (like a prenup) in case you decide to part ways.

#2 - If you have a separate podcast producer from the host, you should have a legal agreement with them.  

This agreement should...

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I built a website. Now what do I legally need in Canada?

This article originally published in 2021 has been updated in March 2024.

If you have built a new website or have done a refresh to your old website (to get rid of the website shame you were feeling), congratulations!

A lot of business owners that I talk to have either not focused on the legal requirements for their website or are relying on their web developers or web designers to include what they need.

Don't Assume Your Web Person Has Got This Handled

In my experience, most web developers and web designers are focused on the user experience and design of your website, but not the legal stuff.  They may pull a template from somewhere, but very few of them customize the website templates for Canadians and for your specific business needs.

So what to do?  I’ve got you covered.

Privacy Policy - You are required by law in Canada (PIPEDA and provincial laws) to have a privacy policy when you are collecting “personal information”.  Personal...

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