On May 19, 2020, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General issued ministerial orders allowing for the electronic execution of wills (Order M161), and enduring powers of attorney ("EPOA") and representation agreements (Order M162). These orders are made in light of ongoing health and safety concerns due to COVID-19. This will be of significant assistance in enabling British Columbians to have validly signed estate planning documents in place even though they are currently unable to meet with their lawyer or notary, or other witnesses, in person.
The orders allow for a will, EPOA, or representation agreement (the "Document") to be signed and witnessed where the person signing the document and requisite witnesses are not physically together. The following requirements must be adhered to:
- the Document must be signed and witnessed while the person signing the Document and the requisite witness(es) are connected simultaneously using audiovisual technology (including assistive technology), as if they were all physically present in the same location;
- in the case of a will at least one of the witnesses, and in the case of an EPOA or representation agreement the one required witness, must be a lawyer or notary public; and
- the Document must include a statement that it was signed and witnessed in accordance with the relevant order.
The Document can be completed by each signatory signing substantively identical copies of the Document in counterpart.
Both orders are in effect starting on May 19, 2020 and ending when the state of emergency expires or is cancelled.
Originally published May 20, 2020
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