1. How is making a Will different now during the pandemic?
All planning meetings are conducted via video-conference.
I will ask you to sign my engagement letter digitally and complete an online info form with key biographical information.
To sign your documents, either:
1. We follow the outdoor signing procedure at my place in the Beaches as outlined in #2 below.
2. We use video signing by counterpart as outlined in #4 below. However, this option may not be available at the time you need to sign your documents (the government order permitting it expires every 30 days), so we should only use this as a last resort and plan for in-person signing.
2. Are you still scheduling in-person signing meetings?
Yes, in a controlled environment as follows that seems to be working well for everyone:
-- Sign at my place with my wife and I as the witnesses
-- I have a table set up at an outdoor semi-heated, covered porch. We sit at opposite ends of the table, at least 6ft apart. Table/chairs will be sanitized before and after. My wife will witness from inside for your added protection.
-- Everyone hand sanitizes before starting
-- We sign, I scan the signature pages and give you the originals.
-- Everyone hand sanitizes when finished
-- Masks required
-- If anyone is sick or under isolation or quarantine we cancel
-- Payment by e-transfer or cheque.
3. Can we just use DocuSign?
No, e-signatures are NOT valid options in Ontario. A “wet ink” original is required.
4. Can we sign virtually by video conference?
Signing a Will in Ontario currently requires the presence of the will-maker (testator) and two witnesses who are not beneficiaries or the spouse of a beneficiary.
The “presence” requirement currently means either physical face-to-face presence or virtual presence by audio-video technology so that you and both witnesses can see and hear each other live and watch each other sign the documents.
Video signing is done by what are called "counterparts", which means you and the witnesses (my wife and I) sign different copies of the same document at the same time. We have to watch each other live on video conference as we each sign the documents. The documents will be marked with a special footnote to ensure we are signing the exact same copies.
The two sets of signed documents are then united to form one complete signed set. In order for me to a create an Affidavit of a witness (required in the future for probate), you will have to send me back your signed copies and then I will return the united sets to you by mail/courier. Or you can forgo the Affidavit and I will mail/courier you our signed witness counterparts.
You will either need access to a printer or I can mail/courier the documents to you. An extra fee will apply for couriers.
Video signing is currently a temporary measure during the pandemic and it expires every 30 days. We do not know if it will be renewed until a few days in advance of its expiry, so this should be a last resort and not relied on.
5. Can I sign and then send the documents to you to witness?
No, we must all be present and sign at the same time, either in person or by video.
6. Can I get my own witnesses and sign the documents in front of them?
Yes. Neither witness should be named in your documents nor spouse of anyone named. You must all be in the same room together and sign at the same time. I will provide a detailed checklist to follow and you will need to send me information and scans once you are finished. I am not responsible for the signing or validity of the signatures in this case.
7. What do I do if I need a Will and can't leave home?
If the government order permitting counterpart video signing is in effect at that time, you can do the entire process without ever leaving home.
You can also make a Holographic Will. There is an exception to the witness requirement for wills completely done in the testator’s own handwriting and signed by them at the end (i.e. nothing typed).
Or you can find another lawyer who is making house calls.
I can Help
This is not an easy time, but my goal is still to make the process of getting your Will in place as easy as possible.
The time to plan is now.
I can help.