Signing Your Estate Documents: What You Need to Know

Disclaimer: This article on signing your will is intended for the purpose of providing information only. It is to be used only for the purposes of guidance. This article is not intended to be relied upon as the giving of legal advice and does not purport to be exhaustive.

In recent years, many of the tasks that used to happen in person have moved online, such as banking, shopping, and communication. 

The legal industry has also adapted to this digital shift, recognizing the need for remote solutions to streamline processes and meet clients’ evolving needs. Remote witnessing of wills and powers of attorney in Ontario is a prime example of how technology can facilitate legal transactions and provide individuals with greater convenience and accessibility.

In this article, we are going to outline the legal requirements for signing your estate documents and how remote witnessing works in our firm. 

Signing your will and powers of attorney

In order for a will to be valid, witnesses must witness you sign the will (unless it is a holograph will, which we discussed here). Certain criteria determine who can act as witnesses for the signing process. The following individuals cannot serve as witnesses:

  • Any beneficiary or their spouse.
  • The person named as executor or their spouse.

Previously, it was required for the testator and two witnesses to be physically present in the same location during the signing of the will. However, since 2021, these requirements have undergone modifications. 

Virtual witnessing is now permissible if at least one of the witnesses is a licensed lawyer or paralegal. You must follow certain conditions, such as ensuring all parties can see and hear each other in real time. 

Signing in counterpart 

When you sign your estate documents remotely, you are “signing in counterpart”. This means that each party involved can sign separate but identical copies of the document. The signed copies are then considered a unified and legally binding document. This flexibility eliminates the need for all parties to be physically present in the same location, making it easier to coordinate and complete the necessary signatures.

Can I use an electronic signature? 

In the realm of estate documents, it is important to note that electronic signatures are not allowed, and “wet ink” signatures are required. Estate documents, such as wills and powers of attorney, hold significant legal weight, and traditional pen-and-paper signatures are necessary to ensure their authenticity and validity. While electronic signatures have gained acceptance in various contexts, estate documents still uphold the traditional requirement of “wet ink” signatures.

a lawyer meeting on zoom to discuss signing your will.

What to expect at your signing meeting

Once we have prepared and finalized your documents, you will have a virtual meeting in order to sign them. We use Microsoft Teams to host our meetings, although any meeting platform can be used. 

First, you will need to have a full copy of your estate documents. You will be initialing each and every page, along with signing the signature pages. We will record your signing meeting in the event anyone questions your intentions at a future date. 

You will hold up a copy of your photo identification so that our team can confirm your identity. We will have a discussion to ensure that you are capable of signing your documents and that you approve their contents. As well, we will discuss who else is in the room with you. This may be important down the road if there are allegations of undue influence

After initialing the lower righthand corner of each page and signing the signature pages, you will hold up each page to the camera so that the recording can capture it. You will also need to send a scanned copy of your documents to our offices. 

After confirming that you have correctly executed the documents, we will then send our signed copy of your will and powers of attorney via registered mail. You can then store them as you see fit. (See here for our suggestions.) 

Beeksma Law and your estate planning needs

When it comes to signing your estate documents, ensuring a smooth and legally sound process is of utmost importance. 

At Beeksma Law, we understand the complexities and sensitivities involved in estate planning and administration. With our dedication to providing personalized legal advice, we can guide you through the intricacies of the signing process. 

Contact Beeksma Law today to embark on a journey toward comprehensive and reliable estate planning.

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