Can I prepare an Electronic Will or sign it remotely?

Keywords: Wills, Electronic Will, Estate Planning, Pandemic

 

As the world continues to face the impact of COVID-19, we are all aware of time spent outside of our homes. While we still provide in-person appointments, some business may be managed from our own home – even traditional activities that were once done exclusively within the boundaries of an office building.

As we have all navigated the COVID-19 pandemic, we have closely monitored the changes made in our ability to create and prepare an Electronic Will. What has traditionally been done in-person at a notary office has now evolved to include remote collaboration between a Notary Public and our clients.

 

How can I prepare a legally valid Will without visiting a Notary office?

Following the surge of the global pandemic, the BC Legislature undertook proactive measures to aid the public. One of the measures taken is Bill 21 – Wills Estates and Succession Amendment Act, 2020. This was an extension or expansion to the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General’s Ministerial Order 161/2020, which was issued in May 2020 and permitted the electronic witnessing of Wills during the State of Emergency that our province of British Columbia was, and continues to be, facing.

Within Bill 21 there are three key highlights to be mindful and aware of when considering an Electronic Will for you or your family.

1. The use of video technology will now allow the testator and witnesses to be in the ‘electronic presence’ of one another

Just like your daily Zoom meetings with colleagues, such similar video technology can be used in an instance in order to obtain your testamentary wishes and then execute those wishes in a legally binding Last Will and Testament. This will not only apply to ones that are done electronically in a file, but also ones that are done on traditional paper. Since technologies such as DocuSign will now be used to provide e-signatures, it may be important to familiarize yourself with this technology if you will be creating an Electronic Will in the near future.

2. Despite the option of using video technology to witness an Electronic Will, signing and witnessing will still need to happen in real time

Although you will be using video to connect with your Notary Public, you will still need to sign in real time (either physically or by using a tool such as DocuSign). It is still an essential requirement to Bill 21 that your signature is “witnessed”.

3. With an Electronic Will, it will only be possible to alter such a document by creating a new Will

 

When documents are stored on your computer, there can be many copies and iterations made. This can create a great deal of complication, and as such, BIll 21 has outlined key rules of engagement as part of any potential changes or a revocation:

a. One must make an entirely new Will if changes are to be made;

b. A written declaration of revocation (either electronically or on paper) must be made with 2 witnesses present;

c. Deleting one or more versions of the existing Will must be done (If you also made a paper-based Will, then you would also need to destroy the paper copy in the presence of a witness).

 

With these provisions being included in Bill 21, it is clear that the BC Legislative Assembly has considered various possible implications as part of the electronic process.

 

If you have been avoiding doing your Will, the time may be NOW!

For various reasons, many of us postpone the creation of a Will (or updating an old Will) for many years. While this may not appear as a pleasant discussion to have or people may think that this procedure require a lot of time for gathering many financial documents, etc., it is actually much simpler than it appears. And now, when the government has updated its legislation to allow for electronic Wills and remote signing, this procedure became easier than ever!

Therefore, if you have been waiting for a while to create your own Will, the time for you may be now. With the additional flexibility of preparing an Electronic Will from the comfort of your home, you no longer need to spend the time to go into a physical office and create one of the most important documents that will uphold your personal and estate legacy. If you have questions about how you may get started with your Electronic Will with the recent changes because of Bill 21, please contact us here or go directly to our Will Questionnaire on our website and submit it today.