Upcoming changes to laws could impact the way many people handle estate planning. New estate planning laws in Ontario will influence how wills are produced, especially for those who are married, living in common-law unions or who are separated. These changes affect the Succession Law Reform Act and the Substitute Decisions Act. Here are some of the ways Ontario residents will be impacted.
Signatures for wills and powers of attorney
As of this year, wills and POAs may be signed and witnessed electronically if:
- A lawyer or paralegal is one of the witnesses
- Both the testator and witnesses sign at the same time
- Everyone participating can see, hear and speak with each other virtually in real time
According to the new laws, existing wills are no longer revoked by marriage. For those married this year and going forward, existing wills will be considered; however, the rule isn’t retroactive. If the marriage happened prior to January 2022, previous rules would apply and marriage would have revoked any existing will. In addition, spouses who are separated lose their entitlements in a will, and they will be treated the same as divorced spouses. So if these individuals are named as beneficiaries or estate trustees in a will, they will not be entitled to those benefits in the will or be able to act as an estate trustee.
Another significant change is that the Ontario Superior Court of Justice can now validate a document that was not properly executed per the legal requirements of wills. There is a catch, however, as the provision doesn’t allow courts to declare a document with an electronic signature to be valid. These new changes to estate planning laws can seem confusing, so it could prove invaluable to consult with a lawyer experienced in this legal area with any questions or concerns.