In 2022, the province of Ontario is making changes to the way that probate works. The changes are designed to make the process simpler and more efficient and to allow more people to avoid the need for probate altogether. Let’s look at some of these changes and what they would mean to the people of Ontario.
Virtually Witnessing Wills and POAs Is Now Permanent
Due to the restrictions put on many areas due to COVID-19, the need to do a lot of things virtually became the new norm, and that includes witnessing wills and POAs. In 2020, the Ontario government passed a regulation that allowed people to have their wills and powers of attorney witnessed virtually. This was merely a temporary setup due to the COVID-19 pandemic but has now been made permanent. This means that people can continue to have their documents witnessed online or via video conferencing without having to meet in person, given that the following criteria are met:
- There must be at least one licensed Ottawa probate lawyer or a paralegal among the witnesses involved in the signing process.
- The witness and the testator must sign at the same time.
- Whatever chosen electronic mode of communication is used in the signing must allow the parties to interact in real-time to see and hear the proceedings.
- Despite being able to sign documents online, all signatures must be done by hand. Electronic signatures are not considered valid.
This is a great option for those who are unable to meet in person due to health or other reasons.
Existing Wills Are Now Considered after Marriage
Previously, if you were married and had a Will in place, the Will would be automatically voided when you got married. Since January 1 of this year, however, any existing wills before you got married will still be considered despite a new marriage. The new law will allow people to keep their existing wills after getting married, which was not the case before. This is a positive change as it will give people more control over their estate planning. However, please bear in mind that these measures do not apply retroactively, meaning any marriages that took place before 2022 can still void existing wills.
Courts Can Now Validate Improperly Executed Wills
The new rules, which come into effect this year, will allow the court to recognize a document as valid if it meets certain conditions, even if it doesn’t meet all the requirements for a formal will or legal writing. This will make it easier for people to have their wishes carried out after their death without having to go through the formal process of creating a will. Basically, the court can now declare a will valid if they feel that it accurately conveys the deceased’s final wishes. This is a big change from previous laws.
What Does This Mean for You?
The changes to the rules of intestacy and the validation of wills will help many people who die without a will or who are married with an existing will. It will give people more peace of mind that their final wishes will be carried out after their death. It also takes into consideration the many challenges that people go through when creating a will or making adjustments to it during significant life changes like marriage, divorce, or even death.
It’s clear that the new probate laws in Ontario for 2022 will have a significant impact on the estate planning process for Ontario residents. These changes will help many people who die without a will or who are married with an existing will. It will also make it easier for people to have their wishes carried out upon death, even without completely going through the formal process of creating a will. These changes are a big step forward in making the estate planning process more accessible to everyone.
Ontario Wills & Estate Plans are here to help you determine what’s the best legal option for protecting your estate. We offer flexible hours and scheduling so we can provide quality legal advice from skilled and compassionate Ottawa probate lawyers in our firm. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!