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In Ontario, the Succession Law Reform Act sets out rules, which must be followed, for a Will to be valid. One such rule, requires that two witnesses be physically present, with the testator, when the Will is signed. This is obviously a concern for many people, currently. For example, if you are in isolation because of Covid-19, and realize you should have a Will, you may feel too concerned about the thought of going into a law office. What about those in a long-term care facility?
Often, lawyers and an assistant, will see their client at the facility in which the client is residing, or the hospital, to witness these documents - of course we cannot do so at this time. Lawyers had been in the process of asking a Court to change the law, when the Ontario Government stepped in. Fortunately, the Ontario Government quickly realized this significant problem, and made an extraordinary Order in Council. Beginning April 7, 2020, and for the duration of this emergency, the two witnesses may witness the signing of the Will by way of "audio-visual communication technology". At least one of the witnesses must be a lawyer, or a paralegal, as set out in the Law Society Act, however all 3 persons can be in different, physical, locations. This is great news for many! Although it may not be appropriate in all situations, having this flexibility, in light of Covid-19, is so important. And this process applies to Powers of Attorney as well! If you need any of these important documents, but have feared the process, reach out to your lawyer now!