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Family Law Blog

COVID-19 Brings Changes to Wills Process in British Columbia

COVID-19 Brings Changes to Wills Process in British Columbia

It’s estimated that just 55 per cent of adults in British Columbia have prepared a will. With anxieties on the rise due to COVID-19, the BC government noticed a rush of people looking to plan their estates. Last month, they responded by proposing permanent changes to the Wills, Estates and Succession Act that would allow people to witness the signing of wills remotely through video technology such as Zoom and FaceTime.

These measures have been available since March, and have been refreshed each time British Columbia renews the provincial state of emergency. While they are still temporary, debates are currently taking place about making this move permanent. What does this mean for the wills process? Lets take a look at the different aspects.

Physical Will vs Digital Will

In May, the BC Legislature introduced Bill 21: Wills Estates and Succession Amendment Act, 2020. This “Bill 21” proposes to expand the definition of a will, such that a will presented in “electronic form” would satisfy the requirement that a will must be in writing.

According to Bill 21, an electronic form is defined as follows:

  • Is recorded or stored electronically;
  • Can be read by a person; and
  • Is capable of being reproduced in a visible form

Requirements Around Signatures

Until recently, wills required a physical signature from the will maker and witnesses to become legally binding. Under Bill 21, this requirement would be satisfied by an “electronic signature.”

According to Bill 21, an electronic signature is defined as “information in electronic form that a person has created or adopted in order to sign a record and that is in, attached to or associated with the record.”

Witness Requirements

Traditionally, wills in British Columbia have required another person to act as a witness during the signing process. Under Bill 21, this witness requirement will be satisfied by an “electronic presence,” which is defined as “the circumstances in which 2 or more persons in different locations communicate simultaneously to an extent that is similar to communication that would occur if all the persons were physically present in the same location.”

Here to Help with the Wills Process

If you have any questions about Bill 21, and the impact it will have on creating a will, get in touch with us today. Our qualified team of family lawyers are ready to help you.