Writing a will during COVID-19

Mary Anne Shaw is an established lawyer whose law practice focuses on Wills and Estates, Residential Real Estate and Family Law. Mary Anne Shaw is very active in the community, and has served on many boards and foundations in the not-for-profit arts and health sectors. She provides personal service and practical solutions.

Getting a Will done in the present COVID-19 time is a question that many have raised. Since lawyers are deemed to be essential services many lawyers are open for business, even if working remotely. So getting a will done is certainly something that can be done.

Before COVID-19, planning to make a Will often involved at least two meetings with your lawyer. The first to discuss your current assets/liabilities, estate planning and instructions for the administration and distribution of your estate. And the second, where you would sign the document in your lawyer’s office.

The big question is can writing a will be done in the times of self-isolation and social distancing? It sure can and here is how:

  1. If you and your lawyer have an established professional relationship, the first meeting might be handled with a telephone conference.
  2. If you do not have a prior relationship with a lawyer, then the first meeting could be done by a telephone conference or by using any number of different internet-based audio-visual programmes like Skype, FaceTime or Zoom.
  3. Prior to the telephone conference or the audiovisual conference, you would need to provide a list of your assets/liabilities, names of individuals, children and charities you wish to benefit in your Will and then flesh out the details using the mechanisms set out above.
  4. Prior to COVID-19, you needed 3 people in the same room at the same time to execute your Will: you and 2 witnesses at your lawyer’s office. Hot New Tip: On April 7, 2020 an emergency Order in Council was made pursuant to the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act which allows for virtual signing of Wills and Powers of Attorney with your lawyer instead of going to their office now make it easier to do a will remotely.

If all of this is too complicated, and admittedly a little scary, you could make a holograph (home made) Will which in accordance with the Succession Law Reform Act must be wholly in your own handwriting, signed and dated by you without formality and without witnesses. Best practice is still to talk to your lawyer, e-mail the holograph Will to him or her, review potential changes, rewrite and sign it.

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