Bill 245, Accelerating Access to Justice Act, 2021 (the “Act”) received royal assent on April 19. Schedules 8 and 9 of the Act usher in significant estate law reforms, including:
- Permanently allowing for remote witnessing of wills and powers of attorney, with some important changes;
- Removing the automatic revocation of a will upon marriage;
- Extending provisions which revoke bequests, appointments and entitlements on intestacy to a former spouse (where the parties are divorced) to also apply where the spouses are separated in certain circumstances; and
- Granting authority to the court to validate an improperly executed will.
Virtual Witnessing of Wills and Powers of Attorney
Bill 245 amends the Succession Law Reform Act and Substitute Decisions Act retroactively to April 7, 2020 in line with the provisions of the emergency order. However, on May 20, 2020, these amendments will be repealed and replaced with slightly amended provisions. While virtual witnessing of wills and powers of attorney will continue to be available, a new requirement that the signatures must be made contemporaneously is added. The new requirement appears to largely prohibit the practice, which developed under the emergency order, of circulating a single document between the testator/grantor and witnesses for signatures over a period of time.
The remaining estates reforms in Schedules 8 and 9 of the Act will come into force on January 1, 2022.
If you missed last week’s PD event Your Critical Update on Legislative and Regulatory Changes in Estates Law, the recording of the session is available here.