Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Estate Planning During Covid-19

Understandably, the Covid-19 pandemic has led many people to think about estate planning. The trouble, of course, is that the traditional approaches to Wills and Powers of Attorney are not always feasible at the moment. Fortunately, there are viable workarounds, so estate planning does not need to be put on hold.

The Problem

The problem is simple:  A Will or Power of Attorney typically requires the signature of one or more witnesses to be considered valid. In a time when social distancing is highly recommended by health authorities, in-person witnessing may not be safe. 

Does this preclude individuals from moving forward with key estate planning documents? 

In short, no.

The Solutions

Some provincial governments have recognized that it may not be practical for all necessary signatories to be in one room. As a result, they have enacted emergency measures designed to allow people to create valid Wills and Powers of Attorney.

Here’s a quick rundown of what’s been announced and how the new process works:

1) The Will or Power of Attorney can be physically sent (by courier, for example) to the witnesses. One witness would sign, after which the document would then need to be sent to the second witness for their signature. This person would then return the document to the individual doing the estate planning. 

2) Alternatively, the witnesses can sign their own copies of the Will or Power of Attorney. Following this, the signature pages would be compiled into one document, likely by a lawyer or paralegal. 

Virtual Changes are Temporary

Importantly, virtual witnessing is only scheduled to be allowed during provincial states of emergency. Once they’re lifted, only the traditional approach to signing and witnessing Wills and Powers of Attorney will be valid. 

It’s Not Quite Out with the Old Way

Some lawyers are still executing wills the old-fashioned way (i.e. in person). If this avenue is pursued, mind you, caution needs to be taken with regards to physical distancing so as to reduce the risk of any Covid-19 transmission. Especially these days, staying safe is the best approach.