Legal Services for Northern Communities

Holly Dinsmore

As I prepare for my next trip to Geraldton in the municipality of Greenstone, I wanted to share the importance of offering legal services to communities that are not easily accessible. Greenstone is about 3 hours north-east of Thunder Bay, and is located off Highway 11. To put it in Canadian terms, the closest Tim Hortons is 2 hours away.

The reason for my visit to the area is to provide the community with access to discounted legal services. Although the Law Society of Ontario has made virtual meetings and signings much easier since the pandemic, there are still some areas of law that are better suited for in-person, namely, Wills. When I started asking more remote communities how and where they had their wills drafted, many responded that they drove to Thunder Bay, they attempted creating their own will or they didn’t have one. As I said before, my drive to this community is 3 hours from Thunder Bay, which is the nearest major city. Although Thunder Bay has a large legal industry, thanks to Lakehead University’s law school, the surrounding areas are still struggling to obtain the same legal experience as those who reside closer to the City. Being in Southern Ontario, or close to a major city, we often take for granted the resources that we have so readily available. To me, these services are accessible within minutes. In Greenstone, a multi-hour trip is their reality.

So, why is it so important to have a Will? To name a few benefits, it can help people set up their affairs in a way that minimizes Estate Administration Tax (otherwise known as Probate). It also gives you the power to decide who is involved in your estate and who is entitled to inherit anything without the courts and strict legislation getting involved. Whether your Will is drafted by a lawyer or “homemade”, there are specific signing requirements that need to be met to create a valid Will.

My objective in travelling to Northern Communities is to bring the law firm to them without the big Southern Ontario price tag. With that in mind, I made a streamlined process that combined the use of both virtual and in-person meetings. By including virtual meetings, I can provide my Northern clients with a comprehensive estate plan and draft their Wills and Powers of Attorney all for our in-person meeting at my rented office space in Geraldton. This system has been well-received by the local community as they do not feel rushed to make decisions.

Since I started going to Greenstone to provide Will services, I have also been able to assist in the purchase and sale of homes, drafting legal documents for local businesses, creating business plans and helping people make those business plans become a reality.

I am looking forward to many trips in the future and I am extremely honoured to be able to use my education to provide access to justice in more remote communities. The legal community mustn’t overlook remote areas of Ontario.