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With Digital Wills, Proceed with Caution

Headshot of Aimee Ares, a lawyer at Westcoast Wills and Estates.

Written by Aimee Ares. 

Prior to COVID-19, for a will to be valid in British Columbia, it had to be signed by the will-maker in the physical presence of two adult witnesses who also signed in the presence of one another.

On August 14, 2020, the legislation governing wills in BC (the Wills, Estates, and Succession Act) was permanently amended to legally recognize electronically signed and remotely witnessed wills.

 
Although these amendments are not yet in force as the accompanying regulations still need to be drafted, the amendments will allow for electronically signed wills to be valid, as long as it was signed with both witnesses electronically present.  

Some celebrate these amendments as a step forward from the antiquated tradition of ink, and they certainly are valuable for assisting people who may be immunocompromised. However, not every law firm has adopted these amendments as common practice. Westcoast Wills & Estates is one of those firms. This is for two reasons: 

  1. Not all jurisdictions recognize digitally or remotely signed wills. A remote or digitally signed will may not be legally valid if a person moves away from BC. 
  2. Meeting with clients in-person to sign a will is the best way for lawyers to verify their client’s identity, assess testamentary capacity, and ensure that there has not been any undue influence on the person to execute the document.

Many of us are now accustomed to meeting remotely, and the option of virtually planning your estate is here to stay. But even though virtual meetings are convenient and accessible, the use of electronic signatures and remote witnessing should be approached with caution and consideration. 

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