All About Estates

Virtual Will Signings and Access to Justice: Do Social Distancing Measures in Estate Law Help Everyone?

This Blog was written by Emily Racine, Estate and Trust Consultant with Scotia Wealth Management

COVID-19 has changed the landscape in almost all aspects of our day to day lives. This includes the practice of estate law. With so many vulnerable individuals looking to complete their estate plan in the days of social distancing, organizations like the Law Society of Ontario have had to embrace change.

With the introduction of virtual will witnessing, we are seeing a new era of the legal field, one aided by technology. I for one believe this is a great development. It allows some vulnerable clients to still receive essential legal services without putting themselves at risk. However, is everyone able to jump on board with this new way to sign a will?

Accessing services such as virtual will witnessing requires stable and quality internet. This is a privilege many of us take for granted but is not available to all, particularly those who may be located in more rural or isolated areas.

Further, virtual will witnessing requires a fairly sophisticated phone, tablet or laptop. This may be a foreign item for those to who cannot afford such a luxury or for those who have not yet embraced that level of technology.

Finally, even with a sophisticated devise and stable internet, you need to have the experience to use video conferencing tools. Particularly for older clients, this may be the final stumbling block to taking advantage of those new virtual signing methods.

Due to these barriers, it may be those who are most vulnerable who are least likely to be able to take advantage of the new virtual will signings.

Therefore, as we all rightly celebrate the adaptability of the law society to the current pandemic and praise them for creating these more flexible rules, it is still important for practicing lawyers to come up with other ways to allow clients who are not in a position to take advantage of virtual will signings to complete their estate planning documents in these uncertain times.

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