Some, but not all, provinces have relaxed the rules around signing requirements for the duration of the provincial states of emergency. We reached out to our extensive network of estate and trust lawyers to learn how they are working with their clients during this temporary new normal.
Before you can execute your estate documents, you will need to gather information and meet with your lawyer. Preparation in advance of your initial meeting with your estates and trusts lawyer is key to the process being successful. As always, your Concentra Trust estate and trust specialists are available to assist you, answer your questions and, if you wish, offer contact information for lawyers in your region.
As we physically distance ourselves, technology is coming to the forefront to enable lawyers to continue meeting with clients. Various videoconferencing services are available and most technologies have the option to record the meeting. During the initial meeting, your lawyer will gain an understanding of your goals for the preservation and distribution of your assets, whether because of incapacity or death. Some lawyers are screen sharing so the information they are gathering is visible to the client to ensure accuracy. Although not an exhaustive list, following is some of the information they will gather:
- What assets do you hold and where are they held (domestically or in a foreign country)?
- Are there minor beneficiaries or a family member with a disability? Are there family members who will be excluded from the distribution of your estate? Will family members receive their inheritance immediately or at some point in the future?
- Who are you considering as executor, power of attorney and/or trustee of any ongoing trusts? Lawyers are in a position to understand when a trust company such as Concentra Trust is an appropriate option.
- Do you have a health care directive in place?
After the meeting, your lawyer will draft your estate documents. With physical distancing, drafts can be sent to you via email or delivered to your home. Your lawyer will contact you to review and discuss the drafts. Once you approve your Will and other estate documents, an appointment to sign them is arranged.
How your Will and estate documents are signed will vary by province. Your lawyer will guide you through the process as the signing and witnessing requirements may change depending on the length of time we are required to physically distance ourselves.
Ontario, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan have enacted changes to allow the witnessing of Wills and other estate documents via live video. This may require two meetings, one meeting for you to sign and one meeting for the lawyer and the secondary witness to witness your signature. This may require you to forward the documents you’ve signed to the lawyer. Your lawyer will make video conferencing available to you and can be accessed via your computer, tablet or smart phone.
In the remaining provinces, lawyers will meet with you to sign the documents. Law firms have implemented precautions to ensure everyone’s safety. As a last resort, in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia, a court can validate a Will that was not signed in accordance with the province’s legislation. Lawyers across Canada are working hard to ensure Canadians have access to sound legal advice and access to the estate documents that will give them peace of mind during these challenging times.