hand touching digital tablet

British Columbia is proposing legislation that would enable courts to accept wills that are signed electronically and witnessed remotely.

Under proposed changes to the provinces’s legislation governing wills and estates, courts would be able to accept wills that are created on a computer and signed and witnessed electronically.

“This modernization initiative was underway before the pandemic, but Covid-19 has made the reasons for these changes obvious to all British Columbians,” said David Eby, the province’s attorney general.

Due to the pandemic, B.C. has been allowing remote witnessing under an emergency order. The proposed legislation would make this provision permanent.

“With this change, lawyers and notaries will no longer have to tell very sick people that there needs to be a personal visit in the hospital, or a court application, before their wishes can be recognized,” Eby said.

“Technology makes court applications, or the risks of these kinds of visits, unnecessary. Covid-19 has accelerated this necessary reform,” he added.

The government noted that its reforms are based on work by the Uniform Law Conference of Canada, which makes recommendations to harmonize and reform laws across the country.

“Requiring lawyers or notaries to tromp in and out of hospitals to satisfy legal requirements for wills that could be met easily with existing technology is no longer acceptable to the public. Happily, this is a shift that is endorsed by most practitioners, as well as leading law reform work already underway by a respected national body,” Eby said.