By Lori M. Duffy and Cecile Ko Brock
In a matter of weeks, the COVID-19 outbreak has changed the world in completely unprecedented ways. The vast majority of us are staying home and practicing social distancing and self-isolation to do our part in ”flattening the curve.”
Estate planning and administration have been impacted as well.
Now more than ever, it is imperative to ensure that your estate planning documents are up to date. You should use this time at home as an opportunity to consider your current estate plan, to ensure that your documents are organized and up to date and that the people you care for or are responsible for will be provided for on your death or incapacity. If you have not reviewed your will in a few years, you may be surprised by who you have named as your estate trustees and as guardian for your minor children.
You may also be able to streamline your estate plan, if your children or grandchildren are now older and able to manage your estate. If you have beneficiaries with special needs that have arisen since you signed your will and your will may need updating to better address such needs.
If you have not updated your will for many years, you may not have up to date powers of attorney for property and personal care. These documents can sometimes be more important than your will as they will determine who will look after your assets and you personally, if you do become ill.
In considering your current plans, you may want to add a charitable gift. Many charities have been greatly impacted by COVID-19 and considering the addition of a gift to a charity as part of your plan can provide much needed assistance.
In Ontario, there are strict requirements pertaining to the execution of wills and powers of attorney. Wills must be signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses who must also sign in the presence of each other and the testator. Witnesses should not be a beneficiary or the spouse of a beneficiary of the will. Powers of attorney have similar execution requirements.
In more ordinary times, physical presence of the witnesses is required. However, on April 7, 2020, an emergency order was made to permit the virtual witnessing of wills and powers of attorney over audio-visual communication technology during Ontario’s state of emergency. If the will is witnessed virtually, one of the witnesses must be a licensee of the Law Society of Ontario at the time of the signing. There are still a number of issues to consider if this method of signing is to be used.
It is important to keep these documents up to date, so that you don’t find yourself either without the best people in place to assist you or your family or incurring the costs and time delays associated with an application to court.
These are challenging times and your lawyer will consider your needs and do their best to assist you during this trying time!
*This article is an adaptation of an article that was published in WeirFoulds Estates & Trust e-Newsletters, published by Carswell/Thomson Reuters, on March 25, 2020.
If you would like to leave a gift in your updated estate plans to Providence Healthcare, please contact Dane Shumak, Manager of Major & Planned Giving, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 416-524-1372 for more details. Feel free to also reach out for a free Providence Healthcare Estate Planning Kit!