Are online wills legal in Canada?
On December 1, 2021, British Columbia became the first province to allow electronic wills – fully digital wills.
Previously, a will-maker could only make a valid will under BC law by signing a physical will with wet ink in the presence of two witnesses (who may be physically or virtually present – i.e. linked to the will-maker by video conference). The two witnesses then had to sign the same physical will or a counterpart with wet ink in the will-maker’s physical or virtual presence. As these changes are still relatively new and have not been fully interpreted by the courts, we still recommend that you print out and sign your will in wet ink in front of your two witnesses.
What happens if I die without a will?
If you die intestate—that is, without a will—the state oversees the dispensation of your assets, which it will typically distribute according to a set formula.
In B.C. your assets will be distributed according to the provincial law under the Wills, Estates and Succession Act however, this may not accurately reflect your wishes. By not having a Will, you also forgo the right to select an executor of your choice (this is the person who steps into your shoes when you are gone and they are responsible for administering your estate in accordance with your wishes. Additionally, you may have negative tax consequences if the estate hasn’t been organized appropriately in advance. Essentially, the estate process typically becomes more costly and time consuming for your loved ones. For example, many financial institutions are less willing to deal with family members, etc. when there is no will.
Can someone contest my will?
Yes, but only a spouse or child (either biological or legally adopted) may commence a proceeding to vary a will that does not adequately provide for the spouse or child’s proper maintenance and support.
This means that if a spouse or a child is left out of a will, they can make a claim against the willmaker’s estate requesting that a court alter the distribution in the will. If, in the court’s opinion, the will-maker has failed to make adequate provision for the proper maintenance and support of a spouse or child, the court may order the provision be made that it thinks is “adequate, just and equitable” in the circumstances which may be different than what is set out in your will. If you are leaving a spouse or child out of your will, please obtain independent legal advice first.