COVID-19 and Wills-related Issues (Updated June 22, 2020)

With growing concerns over COVID-19 and this constantly evolving situation, many people, in particular, frontline workers, are growing concerned about ensuring their wishes are being properly expressed and their loved ones are protected should their personal situation turn for the worst. The best way to protect loved ones when a person has passed away is through a Will. If a person does not have a valid Will, that person may be asking whether they can create a valid Will while still respecting social distancing or while being in isolation.

In order to execute a valid Will, the Will must be signed at its end by the testator (the person signing the Will) in the presence of two witnesses. The witnesses cannot be beneficiaries or the spouse or common-law partner of a beneficiary under the Will. Each page (other than the last page) must be initialed by the testator and the witnesses. Finally, the testator must be of eighteen years of age or older (with certain exceptions). The testator and the two witnesses must be physically present, together, when the Will is signed and initialed.

Given the requirements for a valid Will, what options are available for a person in isolation or who does not want to meet with two witnesses who are not also beneficiaries or the spouse or common-law partner of a beneficiary under the Will?

Sign a Holograph Will:

A testator can create a valid Will without the formal requirements for a valid Will if that Will is written wholly in the person’s own handwriting and signed at its end by the testator. It is also recommended that you date the Will and initial each page (other than the last page). While holograph Wills are generally not recommended as a replacement to a Will carefully prepared by a lawyer, it can serve as a suitable short-term solution if executing a Will in the presence of two witnesses is not possible or reasonable. Contact your lawyer to discuss this option and the content that should go into a holograph Will.

Sign a Will through a barrier or by video conference:

Recent changes made pursuant to an Order under The Emergency Measures Act (Manitoba), effective May 15th, 2020, have temporarily amended The Wills Act (Manitoba) to allow for the signing of a Will by way of a video conference. In order for a Will to be signed by a video conference, one of the witnesses must be a practicing lawyer and the testator and the two witnesses must be able to see and hear each other. A Will signed in accordance with the Order given under The Emergency Measures Act (Manitoba) will be considered to be a validity executed Will.

If either of the two options are chosen, it is recommended that, when the present COVID-19 pandemic subsides, a Will is executed in the physical presence of your lawyer.

Please do not hesitate to contact your relationship partner or lawyer if you have any questions or if we can be of assistance in guiding you through these new challenges.

This article was prepared by:

AARON MAISTER
LAWYER
204.956.3526
[email protected]

This article represents general information and is not legal advice. Please contact us if you would like legal advice that is tailored to your particular circumstances. We would be happy to help.

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