The COVID-19 social distancing protocols have touched everyone and almost every facet of our lives, including your personal finances and estate/succession plan.
The COVID-19 disruption has many people wondering about their Wills. Here are some answers to common questions about what to expect when getting your important paperwork up-to-date. Some special provisions are available during the state of emergency in Ontario.
Do I Need to Have One or Update My Will?
As always it is important that your estate planning documents are current and consistent with your intentions.
If you have an older Will or your personal circumstances have changed since you signed your Will, like you’ve separated or increased the size of your family, or you have a dependent unaccounted for in in your Will, now is the time for an update. If you don’t have a Will, it’s never too early to get one done.
Can I Write My Own Will?
The short answer: Yes. The longer answer: You might not save money, trouble or reduce conflict.
There are two kinds of Wills in Ontario.
Holograph Wills are legal in Ontario. These handwritten Wills don’t need witnesses but we expect that they will be highly scrutinized for their validity and authenticity when it comes time to file for probate. They have their own problems even if they are drafted to reflect your intentions accurately. My first major estate litigation case involved a fraudulent holograph Will. Another case I had involved a holograph Will so poorly drafted, five (5) lawyers (mostly paid by the Estate) needed to argue what it meant.
Executory Wills, on the other hand, are type-written and need 2 witnesses. These are the Wills your lawyer will prepare. I have yet to litigate an executory Will (knock wood).
Do I Need a Power of Attorney (POA)?
There are two kinds: one for property and one for health & physical care. It is especially important for those in high-risk demographics to have their POAs up-to-date. They are helpful if and when you cannot manage your own banking, bill payments or other essential activities on your own. A POA can also designate a trusted person to assist with your care.
I Am Meeting With A Lawyer. What Can I Expect?
If you meet with a lawyer to discuss your estate planning, be prepared to verify your identity with a photo ID. During the pandemic protocols, if you meet with your lawyer over the phone or video conferencing, you can expect your lawyer to ask you to describe your surroundings and identify any other people within earshot to ensure confidentiality.
There are stringent rules for signing and witnessing Wills during the pandemic. E-signatures are not valid but video witnessing and signing in “counterparts” are temporarily permitted, with conditions.
You should attend the appointment with an idea what you want to accomplish – who is to be your Estate Trustee and how do you want to distribute your Estate.
How Can SullivanLaw Help?
SullivanLaw in Ottawa offers simple Will and Powers of Attorney packages for individuals and couples, and free storage. With social distancing protocols in place, we are pleased to say that we have not increased our fees for simple Wills. Details about contacting SullivanLaw are here.
We will be pleased to explain how to make your Will and POAs valid and enforceable. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to discuss what options are best for you.