Here in Toronto, as in many regions around the world, we are in the midst of another pandemic-related lockdown. At the same time, it is still possible to look ahead to a time when life will return to normal.
The uncertainty and very real risk to life posed by COVID-19 has brought home the importance of planning for the financial security of loved ones, particularly loved ones who have disabilities. The principle method for ensuring future security is through Wills and Powers of Attorney (“POAs”), which are increasingly being completed virtually, such as over a Zoom call.
In our experience, most clients have welcomed the shift toward virtual drafting and signing of Wills and POAs, for a number of reasons:
- It permits families who live in areas of the province where appropriate legal expertise is limited to access lawyers who specialize in their needs from a distance;
- It permits families who have care responsibilities to meet with counsel virtually, from the comfort of their own homes without having to secure alternative care;
- The signing can occur without concerns about exposing oneself or anyone else to the virus; and
- Meetings with counsel can occur anywhere one has access to a computer and the internet, meaning that clients can complete their wills during their lunch break at work, minimizing time off.
The question is whether virtual signing will continue to be accepted when the pandemic ends. In numerous other areas of law, electronic signing has become customary. Will it become normal for Wills and POAs as well?
We predict that the answer is yes . Even when the pandemic ends and life returns to normal, the virtual signing of Wills and POAs is likely to become the new normal. In fact, it could become possible to sign a Will using an electronic service like DocuSign, eliminating the need to put pen to paper at all.
However, the old requirements existed in large part to ensure the integrity of the Will-making process. In future, if a Will is signed via the click of a mouse, what will happen if questions are later raised about the validity of the signature? How will it be possible to show that the Will-maker signed the document in person, of his or her own free will, and that he or she had the requisite mental capacity to do so? The courts will likely have to grapple with these questions in the future.
PooranLaw will continue to monitor developments related to estate planning. If you require legal assistance, we encourage you to reach out to your regular PooranLaw lawyer, or any member of our team.
In addition, be sure to check out our website to find information and resources on estate planning issues.
Note: This article provides general information only and does not constitute, and should not be relied upon as, legal advice or opinion. PooranLaw Professional Corporation holds the copyright to this article and the article and its contents may not be copied or reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, without the express permission of PooranLaw Professional Corporation