Thursday, May 21, 2020

British Columbia Now Allows Electronic Witnessing of Wills During Covid-19 Emergency

On May 19, 2020, Mike Farnworth, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General,  signed Ministerial Order No. M161 which allows wills to be witnessed electronically during the current state of emergency. If the process set out in the Order is complied with, a will made during the state of emergency will comply with the formal requirements for a valid will. 

It is important for readers of this post to keep in mind that this only applies during the Covid 19 state of emergency, and not to wills made after the state of emergency ceases.

Two witnesses are still required, and if the will is electronically witnessed, at least on of the witnesses must be a B.C. lawyer or B.C. notary.

The requirements are set out in  section 3 of the Order as follows:

3 (1) If a will is made in accordance with this order, the requirements in section 37 (1) (b) and (c) of the Wills, Estates and Succession Act in relation to a will-maker and the witnesses signing and witnessing the will in the presence of each other are satisfied. 
(2) When making a will, the will may be signed and witnessed while the will-maker and the witnesses to the will are in each other’s electronic presence. 
(3) For certainty, nothing in this section prevents some of the individuals described in subsection (2) from being physically present and others from being electronically present when signing and witnessing a will. 
(4) At least one of the witnesses to a will must be a lawyer or a notary public. 
(5) A will may be made by signing complete and identical copies of the will in counterpart. 
(6) Copies of a will are identical even if there are non-substantive differences in the format between the copies. 
(7) A will made in accordance with this order must include a statement that it was signed and witnessed in accordance with this order.

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