The past year introduced a number of changes to how people and businesses find ways to work. From restaurants to travel to the law, very few industries were left unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the more significant changes to the legal world over the last year was an introduction to hearings taking place over video conferring as well as the ability to have witnesses sign wills virtually. This last change is one of many that are going to be introduced to estate law in the coming year through a Bill known as Bill 245. Today, we’d like to discuss these changes and they will impact those going through an estate law matter.
One of the early changes to estate law as a result of COVID-19 was to allow the virtual witnessing of wills. This was introduced as a temporary measure in April 2020, but as of May 2020 the change became permanent.
Of course, there are still some formalities that should be followed. It’s important that the parties involved use a virtual meeting platform such as Zoom. Everyone should also have a copy of the will in front of them. These should be reviewed on the call. After signing, the witnesses can mail their copies of the will to the testator’s lawyer who can then compile them.
As of January 1, 2022, wills made before someone gets married will still be in force following the marriage. As of right now, if someone gets married their will is automatically void, and a new one should be made (even if it looks exactly like the old one). Of course, many people will want to include their spouse and any future dependents, and as a result, may want to revisit their wills when getting married. However, if someone doesn’t want to do so, they no longer have to.
In a related change, when a couple gets separated, and one dies, the surviving spouse will no longer receive a preferential share. This change will come into effect on January 1, 2022. Until that time, the current law will still be in place, requiring a divorce to eliminate a preferential share going to a former spouse.
On the topic of preferential shares, there are changes that have already put in place. Up until March 1, 2021, if someone died without a spouse and they were married, the spouse would automatically receive $200,000 as a preferential share, with the remaining property in the estate being divided up according to the law. The new maximum amount that will be available as a preferential share is $350,000.
If you’ve read any of our blogs dealing with wills and estates, you may know that one of the most frequent types of questions courts receive about wills are those related to a will’s validity. There are certain requirements that must be adhered to in order for a will to be validated, such as the signature of two witnesses. Until now, if someone dies with a will that is deemed to be invalid, their estate will not be distributed according to the terms of the will.
This will change on January 1, 2022, as courts will be given the ability to “cure” wills that might have otherwise been invalidated due to minor errors, such as two witnesses being present, but only one signing it.
Experienced trusts and estates lawyer, Lex Arbesman, provides unparalleled personal guidance with your estate planning needs. Understand your options, minimize your legal and financial risks, and protect yourself and your loved ones. Contact us online or at 416-481-5604 to book a consultation today.