ith the current state of things all across Canada, estate planning is something that is on people’s minds more and more. The majority of Canadians do not have a valid will, and of those who do, many are severely outdated. In Ontario, the Law Society has enacted an emergency order to respect required social distancing that temporarily allows for virtual signing of estate planning documents, like wills and powers of attorney. Here are some important things clients need to be aware of with these procedures:
1. There will be no in-person meetings during the state of emergency – preliminary information is obtained via checklist which is ideally sent by email, and any follow up questions are done by phone or video-conference. As this is less personal than the usual process, it may take some people longer to feel comfortable with their lawyer.
2. An “audio-visual presence” is required – you will still need to meet with the lawyer to witness the documents, but the appointment will be done with a video call. This requires that clients have the means to communicate with a computer, tablet, or smart phone that has both audio and video capabilities, using meeting platforms like Zoom or FaceTime.
3. It is important that no one else is present for the meeting - for clients who are unfamiliar with the technology required, they may want or need to have a friend or family member assist them. However, due to the nature of the documents, it is very important that the meeting with the lawyer be with the client alone. If help is required to set things up, the lawyer will request that the other parties leave and will not discuss the documents until they have done so.
4. The appointment may be longer than you are expecting – between the protocols required for remote appointments, potential technical difficulties, and the extra communication required in some cases to establish the attorney-client relationship, it is very likely that the remote appointment will be notably longer than an in person appointment.
5. Another appointment may be required later – while protocols are in place for remote appointments during the state of emergency, it is still recommended that all documents executed with the virtual appointments be done in the traditional manner once possible.
Should you have any questions, or are interested in more information, please contact our office via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.