24 November 2020

Virtual Witnessing Key Change Advocated for by Ontario Bar Association

Everyone needs a properly drafted and executed will. And now, residents across Ontario have the ability to have their wills and powers of attorney prepared and witnessed virtually and safely.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck and communities went into lockdown, trusts and estates lawyers had to find new ways to meet and exchange documents with their clients, including front porch and backyard signings of wills. The OBA immediately began calling for a better and safer way to conduct business and serve the public, working with the Attorney General to ensure Ontarians had the option to finalize their wills without the need to meet in person.

“When the pandemic struck, the OBA immediately stepped up to not only support lawyers, but also make sure the justice system kept functioning in a way that benefitted the public,” says OBA President Charlene Theodore. “We worked with the province to remove impediments to remote work, including changes that allowed for remote witnessing of wills and powers of attorney".

“I believe the past few months have shown how critical the work of the OBA is for both the legal profession and the public. Virtual witnessing is one example of this.

Marital status, online accounts, digital assets and retirement savings are just a few things that need to be considered when drafting a will. Documents should also be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure wills are up to date.

As part of Make A Will Month, OBA members are once again offering free legal information sessions for the public throughout November. These virtual sessions emphasize the importance of having a will and how lawyers can help.

“People need peace of mind. That is why having a will that is properly prepared and avoids ambiguities is so important,” says Lionel Tupman, chair of the OBA’s trusts and estates section. “With safety protocols in place because of COVID-19, the OBA moved quickly to find innovative solutions and work with the government to ensure people were still able to get the services they needed".

“Wills help provide for our loved ones, and they need to be drafted in a way that reflects the wishes of the individual and accounts for possible contingencies. A pandemic doesn’t change that fact.”

For more information about Make A Will Month, OBA remote services and information sessions, or to find a lawyer who can help with wills and estate planning, please visit the Ontario Bar Association.

  • According to a 2018 poll conducted by the Angus Reid Institute, a majority of Canadians don’t have a will. In Ontario, only 46% of people have a last will and testament in place.
  • Only one-third (35%) say they have one that is up to date.
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