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Remote-Witnessing for Wills and Estate Planning Documents - Pending Update

09-Apr-20

By McLennan Ross Wills & Estates Team

With the number of cases of COVID-19 rising each day, there has been a surge in Canadians responding to the outbreak by engaging in estate planning. In addition to individual responses, the government has responded by making a number legislative changes; however, changes have yet to be made to the Wills and Succession Act, Personal Directives Act, or Powers of Attorney Act, which currently require witnesses to sign the will, personal directive, or power of attorney (Estate Documents) in the presence of the maker in order to be valid. With the prevalence of social distancing this is becoming increasingly difficult.  

In response to this dilemma, an Ontario lawyer who witnessed two clients’ wills over videoconference commenced a court application to have the wills recognized as valid. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice will hear the case on an urgent basis next week. This quick turnaround suggests the court wants to give lawyers—and all Canadians—guidance on how to manage estate planning during this exceptional time.

Being that the legislative provisions regarding the execution of Estate Documents in Alberta are similar to those in Ontario, this decision will likely influence the law in Alberta with respect to remote witnessing of Estate Documents. We will follow this application and report on the Ontario Superior Court’s decision when it becomes available.

The McLennan Ross Wills & Estates team is prepared to assist you with your Estate Documents on an urgent and expedited basis. If you have any questions or wish to discuss your personal and financial plan, please contact, Crista Osualdini (Practice Group Leader) or Moe Denny. As necessary and in light of the circumstances, we are available to assist you on evenings and weekends and will work to accommodate your schedule to ensure that you are properly prepared.

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