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13 Apr

Virtual Signatures for Wills and Powers of Attorney Now Allowed

Monday, April 13, 2020Lindsay Ann HistropCorporate Law, Estate PlanningWills, Powers of Attorney, Succession Law Reform Act, Substitute Decisions Act, COVID-19

As the COVID-19 health emergency continues to create financial uncertainty because of the shutdown of non-essential businesses, layoffs and reductions in pay, it is understandable that people are concerned about their financial well-being and making sure that they have a Last Will and Testament and, or at least, a Power of Attorney for Property and Power of Attorney for Personal Care.

Although under Ontario law, there are strict requirements for the execution and witnessing of these estate planning tools, on April 7, 2020, the Ontario government relaxed the restrictions for obtaining signatures in Wills and Powers of Attorneys.

Whereas under the Succession Law Reform Act and Substitute Decisions Act, these documents had required execution in the physical presence of attesting witnesses at the same time, the Ontario government, through Ontario Regulation 129/20, has now permitted for the duration of the emergency to allow for signatures on a Will and Power of Attorney to be obtained by the means of audio-visual communication technology.

Audio-visual communication technology is defined under the Regulation as “any electronic method of communication in which participants are able to see, hear and communicate with each other in real time.”

The key components is thus for participants to be able to:

  • see;
  • hear; and
  • communicate,

with each other at the same time, in real time, just like they would normally do if the maker of a Will or a Powers of Attorney and witnesses were able to physically meet.

However, an important restrictions remains to the execution of a virtual Will or Powers of Attorney. To be valid, at least one of the witnesses present in the virtual meeting must be either a duly licensed lawyer or paralegal.

As well, the Regulation does not alter any other statutory requirements with respect to the execution and witnessing of Wills and Powers of Attorney and therefore the current restrictions on who can be a witness to these documents is unchanged.

A Will, a Power of Attorney for Property and a Power of Attorney for Personal Care are tremendously important estate planning documents. Accordingly, if you require any of these documents to be completed during the current health emergency, we recommend that you seek appropriate legal advice.

For more information please contact: Lindsay Ann HistropLindsay Ann Histrop at 416.865.6683 or lhistrop@grllp.com

 

(This newsletter is provided for educational purposes only, and does not necessarily reflect the views of Gardiner Roberts LLP)

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