British Columbia

Why you should make a will in 2022 and why it's never been easier in B.C.

Changes to B.C. laws came into effect on Dec. 1, allowing for the completion of legal wills online. Whether you make a will online or in an office with a legal professional, advocates say you shouldn't put it off.

Changes to the Wills, Estates and Succession Act allow for digital signatures of documents

Advocates say far too many people in B.C. do not have end-of-life documents in place, such as a will. (Shutterstock/fizkes)

At 25, Victoria's Samantha Dixon has done what some people might find uncomfortable and inconvenient. She's made a will so there is a plan for her loved ones after she dies.

Like many people around the world, she says the pandemic pushed her to think about her own mortality.

"I think everyone has been confronted with mortality in a way that is uncomfortable and foreign to them since the beginning of the pandemic," she said.

Dixon along with advocates for end-of-life planning say it's something that shouldn't be put off for anyone 18 or older and it's not as complicated or difficult as some people think.

Dixon became one of the first people in British Columbia to file her will completely online. On Dec. 1, B.C. became the first jurisdiction in Canada to change its laws to allow for online filing.

"My advice would be just to do it," she said. "It doesn't really take any of your time and it's one less thing you have to worry about when that time inevitably comes for everyone."

'Grown-up thing to do'

Surveys show that only about half of Canadians have wills or other forms of estate planning in place. Those without say they are too young to worry about it, it's too expensive or time consuming.

The problem is that when you die without something like a will, the provincial government steps in to make decisions such as how your estate is handled and who will raise your children. The cost of administering your estate can also be higher than if a will was in place.

"So you lose control over what you want," said notary public Morrie Baillie, who has helped people prepare wills on Vancouver Island for the past eight years.

Baillie says she and other legal professionals help clients walk through what is required to write a will. They often meet twice: once to figure out who to name as executors, guardians and to decide other end-of-life details, and a second time to sign the documents and file them.

Baillie says people should expect to pay $300 to $500 to complete a will with a notary public and have it properly filed.

"Doing a will is, as I call it, the grown-up thing to do," she said. "It helps with your planning. It helps with your family. It makes life a lot easier and less chaotic when you have a will."

Digital wills

Dixon went through the process of making a will using an online program called Willful, which was launched by Erin Bury in 2017 as a way for people to create legal wills online.

"We had a family member pass away and we saw how unprepared our family was for someone passing," Bury said. "Instead of grieving, we were arguing about funeral and burial plans and trying to track down important information."

The online program instructs users to answer a series of questions, which it then uses to create legal documents. Up until Dec. 1, users would still have to print those documents and then find witnesses to sign them in person in order to execute the will.

The pandemic prompted the province to change rules around that, so users can now have a virtual meeting with witnesses and sign their documents online.

'Our modern age'

Legalwills.ca is another online platform that was prepared for B.C.'s Dec. 1 changes by partnering with e-signature company Syngrafii.

"The ability to sign online is a great idea in our modern age," said Royce Burningham, who executed his will with the company on Dec. 1.

"As well, I like knowing I have a digital copy permanently stored for me. An easy process that allows for peace of mind," he said in a release from the Legalwills.ca

Willful partnered with electronic agreement company DocuSign to update its program to allow for the changes in B.C., which have been approved by the Law Society of B.C.

Bury says most people looking to do straightforward wills can benefit from her program, and urges people not to delay making a will, whether they're using the app or hiring a legal professional. 

"Our job is really educating Canadians about why you need a will, why you don't have to be old or rich to need a will and how to get it done," she said.

"But the method of how they do it is up to them."

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