COVID-19: Executing a Will in a Pandemic

UPDATE – this post is now out of date. Please see our updated post of May 21, 2020

With reports of the COVID-19 pandemic prompting floods of people to update their Wills, or finally write one, just how easy is it to comply with the formal requirements for making a Will during the current state of emergency?

For a Will made in British Columbia to be valid, it needs to be signed by the will-maker in the presence of two witnesses, who both need to sign too (still in each other and the will-maker’s presence).  There are strict rules about who can or cannot be a witness and there are similar witnessing requirements for Powers of Attorney and Representation Agreements.

Complying with these requirements is difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic, when British Columbians are being told by the BC Centre for Disease Control to stay home and to maintain a distance of two meters from others if required to leave the house.

In Ontario, the provincial government has issued an emergency Order in Council to permit the virtual witnessing of Wills and Powers of Attorney during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Similarly, the provincial government in Quebec has passed a Ministerial Order that allows for the virtual commissioning of notarial documents.

However, here in British Columbia, the formal requirements for the execution of Wills, Powers of Attorney, and Representation Agreements [1], have not been relaxed at this time.

This means that British Columbians who wish to properly execute estate planning documents still need in-person witnesses.

We will be sharing details in another post about law in British Columbia which may permit an improperly witnessed would-be Will to be recognized as valid. However, for certainty it is always preferable to properly comply with the requirements in the first place rather than try and fix things after the fact.

These circumstances are changing quickly, and the suggestions in this blog post were made based on the information available from the BC Centre for Disease Control at the time of writing. We will continue to monitor the BC Centre for Disease Control guidelines and the publications of the Government of British Columbia for the most up to date information on appropriate precautions. Stay tuned!

Legal services are an essential service and remain available during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Does your estate plan need a refresh? Do you want help to prepare a Will? Owen Bird Law Corporation’s Wills and estates lawyers are here to help. We provide our clients with personalized advice, working closely with individuals to draw up Wills and estate plans that help them achieve their personal and financial goals.

Georgia Barnard


[1] A Power of Attorney is a legal document where you give someone you trust the authority to manage your money and property on your behalf.  A Representation Agreement is a legal document where you designate a person or persons to make important decisions, for example with regards to health care, on your behalf if you become unable to make those decisions on your own.  Both Powers of Attorney and Representation Agreements can be signed in the presence of either one lawyer or notary or two independent witnesses.  In order for a Power of Attorney to be registrable with the Land Title Office, there are forms that must be executed in the presence of a lawyer or notary.


Categories: COVID-19, Wills and Estates