Updated May 2021:
As the pandemic continues and lockdowns vary, some provinces have instituted measures to allow for virtual witnessing of documents.
Currently, Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Quebec (notarial wills only) allow for virtual witnessing. Each province has set out their own laws surrounding requirements of virtual witnessing listed below.
Overall, the process for virtual witnessing your estate documents are similar:
- Only the witnessing happens virtually - you can get on a Zoom call and be in each other's virtual presence, but you still need to have wet signatures on paper documents (exception: signatures can be electronic on notarial wills in Quebec)
- You can either mail around the original copy of your will, or your witnesses can print out their own copies and you would each sign them in counterpart (aka 3 separate copies of the will, and stored together they comprise the legal will)
Specific requirements by province
Alberta: virtual witnessing is only allowed "if a lawyer who is an active member as defined in the Legal Profession Act is providing the testator with legal advice and services respecting the making, signing and witnessing of the will".
British Columbia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick: one of the witnesses must be a lawyer licensed by the provincial law society - this is ONLY a requirement for virtual witnessing, and they do NOT have to be an estate lawyer; just any lawyer.
As of April 2021, Ontario has made virtual witnessing permanent with Bill 245. Learn more here.
What does this mean for Willful customers?
We’ve partnered with Notary Pro to help Willful customers in Ontario and British Columbia get their documents virtually witnessed while social distancing. This virtual process is permitted by the Law Society of Ontario and Law Society of British Columbia and involves uploading your documents and ID, signing your will on video conference, your witnesses signing a copy of your will during the video call, and Notary Pro mailing the signed copy of your will back to you (your copy and the signed witness copies should be stored together). We’ve outlined the process details here and Notary Pro has done the same here.
Notary Pro has made the process as easy as possible and is offering special pricing for Willful customers that provides savings off their regular prices. If you are located in Toronto, Ottawa or London, Notary Pro also has local locations where you can pick up your documents to save on the cost and time of mailing.
If the regulations change, we will be sure to promptly update the process with Notary Pro. As always, please feel free to reach out to us via live chat, email or phone if you have any questions or concerns.
I don’t live in a different province - can I get my will virtually witnessed?
So far Ontario, BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Quebec are the only provinces to allow virtual witnessing, we hope more provinces will follow suit. Until then, it is important to follow the witnessing and signing requirements in your province.
Whether you’re in Ontario, British Columbia or another province, watch your email inbox for more details as we have them, and in the meantime, you can follow the rest of these tips to get your will finalized during COVID.
Provincial resources on virtual witnessing across Canada:
View PDF of the Order - Order Under Subsection 7.0.2(4) of the Act - Signature in Wills and Power of Attorney