Using Video Conference to Witness Wills and Powers of Attorney
Until April 7, 2020, all non-handwritten Wills required two witnesses to be physically present in the same room as the will-maker to sign the Will. Failure to comply with this requirement would render the Will invalid. It is of no surprise that this requirement has become difficult to comply with for people wishing to make a Will during the COVID-19 crisis, where we are required to remain socially distant.
On April 7th, the government of Ontario came up with a solution to this problem. Wills can now be signed using video conference provided that the will-maker and both witnesses can see, hear and communicate with each other in real time, and one of the witnesses is licensee with the Law Society of Ontario, such as a lawyer. These relaxed requirements also apply to executing Powers of Attorney.
The question was left open however whether the original Will had to be couriered to each of the witnesses to sign once the Will-maker had signed. The question was recently answered by the Government of Ontario. Each of the Will-maker and the witnesses will sign a separate but identical copy of the Will and each of the copies together will be the original Will. The procedure for signing Wills will now look like this:
- Instructions are taken by the lawyer for the Will.
- The Will is prepared by the lawyer for the Will-maker’s review.
- Once the Will is finalized, the final Will will be sent to the Will-maker and the two witnesses by the same email.
- Using video conferencing, the will-maker and two witnesses (one of which is the lawyer) will be able to see and hear one another.
- The Will-maker and both witnesses shall print the Will attached to the email referred to in item 3, and each will review the first two sentences and last two sentences of each page. That will verify that each is reviewing the same Will.
- The Will-maker will be asked by the lawyer witness whether this is the Will that she/he instructed be drafted and will be asked whether she/he is voluntarily signing the Will.
- The Will-maker will then initial each page and sign his/her own copy of the final Will.
- Each witness will then initial each page and sign his/her copy of the final Will.
- At that point, a validly executed Will will be in 3 counterparts.
- The affidavit of execution can be arranged to take place at the same time, also by video conference or shortly thereafter with a different lawyer commissioning the affidavit.
Merovitz Potechin LLP is proud to have the necessary capabilities to assist you in preparing and signing a Will and Powers of Attorney during the COVID-19 crisis. If you have any questions, please contact Wills and Estates Lawyer Sarah Macaluso at Merovitz Potechin LLP.
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