On December 1, 2021, British Columbia became the first Canadian province to pass legislation allowing for electronic signing, video witnessing, and digital storage of wills. You might have questions like how can I sign my will electronically? What platforms can I use to sign my will? Where do I store my digital will?
To help you understand electronic witnessing in BC, we’re addressing all the common questions below.
How Can I Sign My Will Electronically?
There is no restriction on how you can sign your will online - any format is fine! For example, you can sign a PDF, or use an electronic signature platform like DocuSign. The best practice is to save the signed document in a PDF.
How Do I Virtually Witness My Will?
Traditionally, witnessing requires that you and your two witnesses be physically present in the same room or have the ability to be physically seen signing your will from a distance or behind a glass divider.
Electronic witnessing allows you to utilize any virtual conferencing platform (i.e. Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams) to replicate being in the same room as your witnesses. You can then share your screens to witness each other's signatures virtually. Just be sure that your witnesses must meet the legal requirements for witnesses:
- Be over the age of majority in your province
- Be mentally competent
- Not be a beneficiary of the will
If I Sign My Will Online, Can I Print It Out And Store A Physical Copy? Or Vice Versa, Can I Scan A Paper Copy Of My Will And Store It Online?
You need to store the original will in the format in which it was signed. For example, if you signed a paper copy of the will, you must store that physical copy in a safe place. If you scan the will and store it online then it would only be considered a copy.
The same goes for if you sign the will digitally - store it digitally. If you print the will, then it would only be considered a copy and not the original will.
How Do I Store My Digitally Signed Will?
Once you have downloaded your will, you can securely save it in a safe place like your computer, a hard drive, or a digital vault of your choosing.
But that’s not it! Ensure your Executor and a trusted family member know where your documents are stored and how to access them in the event of your passing.
Are Electronic Signatures Safe?
Yes - electronic signatures are safe! Below are a few reasons why e-signatures are safe.
Unlike wet signatures, e-signatures include an electronic record that provides an audit trail and proof of the transaction. The audit trail includes key information like when the document was opened, viewed and signed. In some cases, the record will also show the geolocation of where the document was signed. The audit trail is available to all participants in the transaction which is particularly helpful if one of the signers disputes their signatures, or if there are any questions about the transaction.
E-signatures allow for more detailed certificates of completion which contain specific details about each signer on the document, including whether the signer agreed to use e-signature, the signature image, key event timestamps, the signer's IP address and other identifying information.
Lastly, all documents are digitally sealed using an industry-standard technology called a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). The seal indicates the electronic signature is valid and that the document hasn’t been tampered with or altered since the date of signing.
Do I Have To Use Willful To Digitally Execute My Will?
No, you can download the PDF copy of your will from your Documents page and execute it on your own at any time.
Can I Store My Digitally Signed Will On Willful?
No, not at the moment, but we will offer a storage solution in future. In the meantime, you can securely save it in a safe place like your computer, a hard drive, or a digital vault of your choosing.
What Is The Willful Bill 21 Electronic Wills Pilot Program?
Willful has launched a pilot program for Electronic (digital) wills in BC. As a part of the pilot program, Willful has partnered with DocuSign to offer free digital execution of wills to a limited number of new Willful customers from Dec 2021 through Jan 2022.
Can I Sign Up For The Pilot Program?
We have experienced high demand for our pilot program and were only able to offer limited appointments as part of our pilot project. All appointments have been filled but we hope to roll this service to all BC users in 2022.
If you have any questions about the program, please email email@example.com
What Do I Do After Signing My Will With Willful’s Service?
After you sign your will, you will receive an email to access and download your fully executed (digitally signed and witnessed) will. You can then view and download the file. Each signing session also creates a Certificate of Completion that you can download as a PDF and store together with your will if you would like.
Storing the Certificate of Completion is not required by law but if it’s stored with your will, it provides an audit trail of the signing which contains useful information like timestamps, the signer's IP address and other identifying information.
Is DocuSign Secure?
Yes! Documents signed online with legally compliant e-signature software are as valid and binding as traditional pen-and-paper documents. Contracts signed using enterprise-level electronic signature processes like DocuSign are completely secure and deliver a rigorous audit trail of who signed and when.