Wills and Estates Refresher – A Reflection

July 26, 2021 Fred Tonelli Uncategorized Tags: , , 0 Comments

I recently had the pleasure of attending a Continuing Professional Development webinar offered by the Law Society of Ontario, namely the July 14, 2021 Wills and Estates Refresher.

The main topics discussed in this webinar related to both general issues in the process of estate planning, and particular issues related to the rise of virtual legal practice during the Covid-19 pandemic.

For example, the speakers discussed how many potential clients would approach an estate planning lawyer under the assumption that drafting their will and other testamentary documents would be a simple, uncomplicated process, until their lawyer soon discovered several issues with their assets and life situation that would actually significantly complicate their estate planning.

Six such factors outlined by the speakers were: 1) bequeathing a family cottage, 2) bequeathing a family business, 3) bequeathing to family members living in the United States or another foreign jurisdiction, 4) bequeathing real estate located in the US or another foreign jurisdiction, 5) bequeathing complex financial assets, and 6) bequeathing to children or spouses from a former marriage.

Imagine a situation in which a husband and wife are both married to each other for the second time, both have children from their previous marriages, with a daughter living in England, and a son living in Ireland, while owning a vacation property in Florida. One could understand why, in such a circumstance, drafting a will for the husband or wife would not be so “simple.”

Another cogent issue discussed was the rise of virtual client meetings and execution of wills over the course of the pandemic. Although this was a necessity during Covid, many virtual legal practices will likely continue into the future, as a convenience and cost-saving measure for both lawyers and clients. However, the speakers did note that a lawyer meeting virtually with a client should always be cautious, making sure that there are not other parties in the room with the client potentially unduly influencing their estate planning intentions. One speaker suggested that in the future, she would perform initial client meetings virtually, but would only commission the execution of wills in person. This seems like a reasonable compromise.

It remains to be seen how the profession will move forward in this regard, as many personal and professional restrictions related to the pandemic are gradually lifted.

Thanks for reading!

Fred Tonelli

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