Tag: emergency holograph will

12 May

Is the time for Electronic Wills now?

James Jacuta Estate Planning, Wills Tags: , , , , , , , 0 Comments

A recent decision out of Alberta on holograph wills is interesting. The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench decision released on February 20, 2020 in Edmonton in the Estate of Dalla Lana, 2020 ABQB 135  starts with the following :

“Mr. Dalla Lana made a will in 1997. On March 1, 2018 (four days before he died) and via notes made on two sticky notes, he made what he described as “changes to my earlier will”. The “changes” if valid, effectively rewrote the entire will.”

The decision then goes on to find that the “two sticky notes” were a valid will. This was one more decision in a long line of cases (in substantial compliance jurisdictions, unlike Ontario) with wills being upheld when written on everything from napkins to tractor fenders.

If a valid will can be done on a sticky note, one should ask is there any reason now why an electronic will could not be done on an iPad or smartphone?

Pandemic emergency Orders in Ontario have recently accepted wills being signed and witnessed by video conference or by counterpart. However,  there is still a requirement for a “hard copy” of the will. A purely electronic will with a digital signature is still not permissible.

Some jurisdictions have already allowed electronic wills into probate. In Australia, the High Court of Queensland gave probate to a will in 2013 contained in the iPad of the deceased, in Yu Estate 2013 QSC 322.

Although digital electronic signatures have been allowed in Ontario for use in some business situations for many years,  there are some restrictions on doing electronic will signatures which are found in the Electronic Commerce Act, 2000, SO 2000, c 17,

31 (1) This Act does not apply to the following documents:

  1. Wills and codicils.
  2. Trusts created by wills or codicils.
  3. Powers of attorney, to the extent that they are in respect of an individual’s financial affairs or personal care.

Given the emergency statutory provisions triggered by the pandemic, it seems inevitable that a meaningful debate will soon ensue about the merits of electronic wills and the broader question of whether Ontario should adopt substantial compliance in its estates legislation.

Thanks for reading.

James Jacuta

Please enjoy these blogs on the subject:

Using a Holograph Will to Validate an Unsigned Will? Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

Emergency Holograph Wills for Clients in Isolation

20 Mar

Emergency Holograph Wills for Clients in Isolation

Ian Hull Estate Planning, In the News Tags: , , , , , 0 Comments

In our blog on March 18th, we gave some ideas for getting formal wills executed when the lawyer couldn’t be present to witness.   In today’s blog, we have a few more options for our clients to consider if getting a Will executed immediately is necessary.

As we all know, holograph Wills are valid in Ontario.  To qualify as a valid holograph Will, the document must be in the handwriting of the Will-maker and signed.  The Succession  Law Reform Act speaks to being “wholly” in the Will-maker’s handwriting.  However, case-law supports the validity of a handwritten portion of a document, even if the entire document is not in the Will-maker’s handwriting. To the extent any part of the document is not in the Will-maker’s handwriting, that part will be excluded from the otherwise valid holograph document.

We have several clients who are in isolation making it impossible to have two witnesses execute our drafted Will.  For a simple but, emergency situation, we are recommending that a holograph Will be done.  We have a few key provisions to be included as a bare minimum:

  1. Identifying the document as a Will;
  2. Revoking prior Will;
  3. Appointing an executor;
  4. Simple dispositive provisions;
  5. Executor’s power to sell; and
  6. Date

The key instructions are:

  1. The entire document must be handwritten by the Will-maker; and
  2. The Will-maker must sign the document at the end.

Proof of handwriting will be necessary if the holograph Will must be probated.  One option that may come in handy is to have the Will-maker video the writing and signing of the document.

We also strongly recommend that the client come in to sign a formal Will as soon as possible.

Click on the link to see a sample Client Holograph Will Instruction sheet for use in these kinds of situations.

In Monday’s blog, we’ll discuss the novel idea that our colleague, Mary Stokes raised.  Can a client use a simple holograph Will to incorporate the terms of a comprehensive formal Will which can’t be properly signed because of a lack of witnesses?

Hope you are all safe and healthy,

Ian Hull and Jordan Atin

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