Digital will signing and storage are coming to British Columbia
What you need to know about making a will once Bill 21 comes into effect
British Columbia is the first Canadian province to pass legislation allowing for electronic signing, video witnessing, and digital storage of wills. When the laws come into effect, you will be able to complete your will completely online. At Willful we’re helping break down what this means, how it changes the current process, and how you can prepare for digital wills.
What is Bill 21?
Bill 21 is a piece of legislation that amends the Wills, Estates and Succession Act, which was passed in 2009 and governs how wills are made in BC. Bill 21 amends the current legislation to allow for:
Electronic signing of wills
Virtual witnessing - right now it’s possible to virtually witness a will over video, but it’s only part of the temporary COVID-19 measures - this makes it permanent
Digital storage of wills
Digital revocation of a will (how to update or revoke an existing will)
How is this different from creating a will today?
Currently, it’s not legal to sign or store a will online anywhere in Canada. Right now for a will to be legally-valid in BC, it requires the following:
Created by you in sound mind
Signed with wet ink on paper
Witnessed by two people who also sign with wet ink
If you’re doing virtual witnessing under the emergency orders, you still have to sign physical documents in counterpart (you sign one copy, your witnesses sign another copy)
How does Bill 21 help BC residents?
COVID-19 has showed how inaccessible and inefficient it is to complete documents in person and on paper. Bill 21 will help with:
Safety: Bill 21 removes the need to meet with someone in-person, which helps with COVID-19 safety guidelines
Accessibility: Whether you live in a rural community, you have a disability, or you can’t leave your home due to medical reasons, this makes it easy to complete your will from a computer or smartphone
Convenience: Complete your will from home without having to visit a lawyer’s office or meet with witnesses in person
Fraud reduction: Secure electronic processes will help to cut down on fraud
Document safety and access: Ensure your family can access a digital copy of your will when you pass away. Digital storage also ensures a physical document can’t be destroyed