British Columbia introduced legislation on June 22, 2020, to enable courts to accept electronic wills and to permit the remote witnessing of wills.
Bill 21 proposes amendments to the Wills, Estates and Succession Act of British Columbia to enable the courts to accept wills that are created on a computer and signed electronically, and for which there is no printed copy. The amendments will also allow the use of technology for the witnessing of wills by people who are in different locations. As well, the proposed legislation contains new procedures for revoking or altering electronic wills.
As outlined in a previous article in Wealth Matters, Electronic witnessing of BC estate planning documents (May 22, 2020) on May 19, 2020, by Ministerial Orders, the Government allowed electronic signing of Wills, Powers of Attorney and Representation Agreements during the state of emergency. These Orders will be repealed by Section 12 of Bill 21. By making the change permanent, there will no longer be a need for the Ministerial Orders.
Once passed, certain sections of the legislation will have retroactive effect from March 18, 2020.
David Eby, Attorney General, has indicated that this modernization initiative was underway before the pandemic but COVID-19 has made the reasons for these changes obvious. The changes are based on work done by the Law Reform Commission of Canada.
British Columbia is the first jurisdiction to propose such legislation in Canada. We will provide further updates as the legislation progresses.