The COVID-19 outbreak in Quebec poses unique challenges for people who need to get their will completed while also preventing exposure to the coronavirus. Most types of wills in Quebec are required by law to be physical, printed documents that have to be signed on paper in the presence of two witnesses who also sign the will, and those witnesses cannot benefit from the will (so they can’t be legatees or liquidators or their spouses).
In many cases, the people in your “bubble” are ineligible to be witnesses because they are named in the will as legatees, which presents a problem: how do you get your will executed without breaking social distancing protocol?
Has Quebec changed any estate planning laws because of COVID-19?
Like many other provinces, Quebec has recognized the limitations of current in-person, paper-based estate planning processes. As a result of COVID-19, the Chambres des Notaires is allowing notarial wills to be executed digitally until at least August 2021.
There are no emergency measures that allow for any other type of will to be signed, stored, or witnessed online.
How can I make my will legal during COVID-19?
In Quebec there are a few ways to make a legal will even during COVID-19:
- You can handwrite your will on a piece of paper (called a holograph will)
- You can use a paper will kit or purchase Willful’s $99 plan
- You can hire a lawyer to draft your will
- You can visit a notary to draft and execute your will
The only type of will that can be executed fully online during COVID-19 is a notarial will. Any other type of will must be printed, signed on paper, and witnessed in person.
What if I use Willful - can I make my will online?
If you choose the $349 Notarial plan: yes!
With Willful’s Notarial plan you can create, sign, and store your will 100% online. We guide you through creating your document, and connect you with our notary partner to electronically sign your document. The notary then registers and stores your document online. Voila!
If you choose Willful’s $99 will: no.
This is considered a “will in front of witnesses,” and it must be printed, signed with a pen, and witnessed by two people who also sign the physical documents.
I’ve heard the term “virtual witnessing” - is that a thing in Quebec?
Unfortunately no. Other provinces including Ontario, BC, and Saskatchewan have implemented emergency orders that allow you to witness your will over video chat, vs. having to get together with people in person. Quebec has not implemented any virtual witnessing orders, so your witnessing must happen in person. For more on witnessing your will, read our guide to witnessing your will.
Knowing I have to get together with my witnesses if I’m not creating a notarial will. How can I attest my will while respecting COVID-19 protocols?
Thank you for doing your part to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in your community. You can still get your will completed and witnessed while practicing social distancing by taking a few extra precautions:
- If you don’t have a printer at home, ask a family member or your liquidator to print your will for you and leave it at your door. Only do this if you’re comfortable sharing the file with them.
- Seek out eligible witnesses who are in your household, or who you will be seeing while social distancing (close family members). A reminder that your witnesses can’t be anyone who benefits from your will - so your legatees and liquidator can’t sign (nor can their spouses). But family members who don’t fall into that category make great witnesses. Willful provides you with an instructions page outlining who cannot sign your will so it’s extremely clear.
- Avoid crowded spaces and touching surfaces on public transportation, if you can, when traveling to meet with your witnesses.
- You and your witnesses should wash your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap before and after signing and witnessing the will.
- Sanitize the surface on which your will is to be signed and witnessed with an antibacterial wipe or spray.
- The Government of Canada recommends maintaining a two-meter (6 foot) distance from your witnesses. We recommend taking an extra step by avoiding direct contact with your witnesses’ hands and face.
- If you want to ensure there is no germ transmission, you can wear gloves while signing.
- BYOP: Bring Your Own Pen - Each person coming in contact with the will should have their own pen that is sanitized before and after the signing and witnessing of the will.
- Minimize the number of people in the room - just the testator (the person who created the will) and two witnesses.
What if I have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or I am in isolation and cannot see witnesses?
If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or you are quarantining, you have a few options:
- Complete a notarial will, which will allow you to complete your will 100% online
- Handwrite your will (this is legal in Quebec as long as it is 100% in your own handwriting; no witnesses are required)
- Wait until you have recovered or your quarantine period has ended and then execute your will
We do not advise assigning healthcare workers as your witnesses because a witness of your will should be a trusted individual you will know in the long-term - that person may be called before the courts during the probate process to confirm they were there when you signed, or to answer questions.
This is a great time to reach out to family and friends and encourage them to get their own paperwork in order. As we’ve learned in the last year, it’s always good to have a plan in place for the unexpected.
Learn more about Quebec’s response to COVID-19 and how to stay protected by visiting this government website.