As we live through the effects and realities of COVID-19, it's important to remember this is actually a good time to think about and implement your estate planning if you have not already done so. The question, of course, is- how can one have a will or powers of attorney created and still practice effective social distancing? Here are a few options to consider:
Professionally prepared estate planning documents
Although we are working remotely, Dale & Lessmann's Estate Planning and Administration Group continues to assist clients with their estate planning needs and in the preparation of wills, powers of attorney, and other testamentary documents. When it comes to execution of the documents, we can assist with the help of video conferencing and other means.
The Holograph Will
A holograph will is a will that is written entirely in one's own handwriting and signed, without the need for witnesses. Although legal in Ontario, the holograph will is not recognized in all Canadian provinces.
I recommend a holograph will only in the case of an emergency. It is not meant to replace a professionally drafted Will, but rather to act as a short-term solution if you are unable to get a professionally prepared will in urgent circumstances. Wills are complicated documents and it is easy to make errors that result in unintended consequences. For these reasons, it is best to leave the preparation to those with experience drafting wills. If you are unable to access a lawyer who can assist with preparing your will in this time of social distancing, a holograph Will may be a short-term option.
Powers of Attorney
I like to call powers of attorney "the ignored little sister" in estate planning. There is a significant emphasis on the importance of having a will. However, having powers of attorney are equally important. If you are alive but become incapacitated, a power of attorney for property and personal care will allow the person you designate to make financial and personal care decisions on your behalf. In these uncertain times, all adults should have powers of attorney in place. For an emergency situation, The Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General provides free, basic powers of attorney for property and personal care here: https://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/family/pgt/poa.pdf. I would again recommend these documents for urgent situations only as powers of attorney prepared by a lawyer will address a number of additional situations not covered by these documents.
In challenging situations, there are always solutions. As we live through the current challenges, it remains possible to implement planning for the uncertain days ahead.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.