Virtual witnessing of wills has been a great innovation for the pandemic, but there is still room for improvement before making it permanent.

Since April, emergency regulations prompted by the COVID crisis have allowed testators to have their wills witnessed remotely, without the need to meet in person with their lawyer (or anyone else for that matter).

The current rules mean a will witnessed via audio-visual communication technology will be valid, as long as one of the two witnesses is a licensee of the Law Society of Ontario and the app used allows participants to see, hear and speak with each other in real time.

In my office, we have enthusiastically embraced these changes, as we do any technological advance that makes legal assistance more accessible and affordable for all.

I also know my clients have certainly appreciated the opportunity to get their affairs in order in these difficult times.

Legal news outlet Law Times recently reported that Ontario’s provincial government is thinking of enshrining the temporary regulations in law for good, but I think they can still do better.

In my experience, the whole process of witnessing virtually can be slightly cumbersome, mainly because of the amount of paper involved.

A typical virtual witnessing call involves at least three people in different locations, each initialing and signing counterpart documents that must somehow be brought together for filing.

If a straightforward will is roughly 20 pages, that means you’ve got 60 pages of paper you need to hang on to. Throw in your virtual power of attorney documents and suddenly you’re up to 100 pages that need to be stored, or even more depending on the complexity of your will.

As promising as the idea of virtual witnessing has been, we need to take this opportunity to cut down on the amount of paper that is needed and make the process a bit more streamlined before making it a permanent feature of estates law in Ontario.

Disclaimer: The content on this web site is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice or an opinion of any kind. Users of this web site are advised to seek specific legal advice by contacting members of Laredo Law (or their own legal counsel) regarding any specific legal issues.

Disclaimer: The content on this web site is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice or an opinion of any kind. Users of this web site are advised to seek specific legal advice by contacting members of Laredo Law (or their own legal counsel) regarding any specific legal issues.

Please note: In supporting my colleague Bruce Martin from Charity Cards, I’d like to pass along an opportunity.

You can save 20% on holiday cards this year! Sending out real cards in these digital times, while supporting Make-A-Wish, will help strengthen relationships with clients and colleagues. Simply go to charitycards.ca, find the perfect cards and enter “BNI20”.