Estate Planning After the Pandemic

I don’t know about you, but this state of emergency feels like it has lasted forever and a day. In BC, we’ve done fairly well at both an individual and governmental level (thanks Dr. Henry!). The province is gradually opening up and the BC government has introduced two new Bills to parliament over the last few weeks to aid in the transition.

The first is the Covid-19 Related Measures Act (the “CRMA”) It was introduced to parliament on June 22, 2020 and it is related to the various orders and regulations which were issued by the provincial government during the state of emergency. The CRMA sets out a transition period from the declaration of the end of the state of emergency (the “End”) to the end of the orders’/regulations’ applicability. Some of the orders/regulations will end 90 days after the End (such as the order allowing for electronic witnessing of powers of attorney and representation agreements) and some of the orders will end 45 days after the End.

The CRMA will also allow the Lieutenant-Governor to extend the transition period for up to a year following the End, in the event a second wave of Covid-19 hits BC.

Noticeably absent from the CRMA is any mention of Ministerial Order M161, Electronic Witnessing of Wills. This is because the second Bill the BC government has introduced is an amendment to the Wills, Estates and Succession Act (“WESA”) which will allow for the electronic witnessing of Wills, on a permanent basis.

If passed by the government, the amendments to WESA will create a provision which will allow for Wills to be signed and stored electronically. The definition of ‘electronic signature’ in the proposed subsection 35.1(b) is: 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. This appears to indicate that a tool such as ‘AdobeSign’ will allow for valid signing (more guidance is needed from the government on this).

An electronic Will will be deemed to have been signed electronically if the electronic signature is attached to the electronic Will and it is very clear that the will-maker intended to make the Will. We aren’t sure what this will look like exactly, quite yet, but are keeping our eyes and ears open!

If these changes are enacted into legislation, what will this mean for your estate planning?

You will be able to sign and store an electronic copy of your Will. And with the addition of video-conferencing interviews and meetings, you may never have to step foot into a law office! (Well, not ours at least.) However, there is one small caveat… if you are getting a power of attorney and representation agreement too, following the end of the state of emergency, you will need to show your smiling face in person to sign those estate planning tools.

This post was researched and written by lawyer, Jennifer Schreurs.