The Ontario government has just announced major changes to the legislation affecting Wills and Powers of Attorney. The previous requirement when making these documents was that witnesses had to be in the physical presence of the person who was signing the documents. This is no longer the case, while the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing.
The government has announced that these documents can now be witnessed by audio-video communication, provided that one of the witnesses is a lawyer.
We are glad that the government has made these amendments, as it will allow us to continue to serve our clients remotely. As the laws and regulations continue to change rapidly, we are updating our procedures so that we follow the proper process and our clients are properly served when making their Wills and Powers of Attorney. We now have a process that will allow our clients to sign Wills and Powers of Attorney via audio-video communication.
We have already taken steps to receive client instructions for these documents remotely, and this new change is the final piece that will allow us to serve our clients in making Wills and Powers of Attorney entirely through audio-video communication. We are taking these steps to protect the health of our clients, and to ensure that they have peace of mind, by knowing that these critical documents are in place to protect their loved ones.
Please contact us today to begin the process of making or updating your Wills and Powers of Attorney.
We have included below the text of the regulation made by the Ontario government for more information.
ONTARIO REGULATION made under the EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AND CIVIL PROTECTION ACT ORDER UNDER SUBSECTION 7.0.2 (4) OF THE ACT-SIGNATURES IN WILLS AND POWERS OF ATTORNEY
Whereas an emergency was declared pursuant to Order in Council 518/2020 (Ontario Regulation 50/20) on March 17, 2020, at 7:30 a.m. Toronto time pursuant to section 7.0.1 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (the “Act”) and has been extended pursuant to section 7.0.7 of the Act;
And Whereas the criteria set out in subsection 7.0.2 (2) of the Act have been satisfied;
Now, Therefore, this Order is made pursuant to subsection 7.0.2 (4) of the Act, in particular
paragraphs 12 and 14 of that subsection, the terms of which are set out in Schedule 1;
And Further, this Order applies generally throughout Ontario;
And Further, this Order shall be in effect for the duration of the declared emergency, subject to section 7.0.8 of the Act.
SIGNATURES IN WILLS AND POWERS OF ATTORNEY
1. For the duration of the emergency, a requirement under the Succession Law Reform Act that a testator or witnesses be present or in each other’s presence for the making or acknowledgment of a signature on a will or for the subscribing of a will may be satisfied by means of audio-visual communication technology provided that at least one person who is providing services as a witness is a licensee within the meaning of the Law Society Act at the time of the making, acknowledgment or subscribing.
Powers of attorney
2. For the duration of the emergency, a requirement under the Substitute Decisions Act, 199 2 that witnesses be present for the execution of a power of attorney may be satisfied by means of audio-visual communication technology provided that at least one person who is providing services as a witness is a licensee within the meaning of the Law Society Act at the time of the execution.
3. In this Order,
“audio-visual communication technology” means any electronic method of communication in which participants are able to see, hear and communicate with each other in real-time.