COVID-19 & Wills and Estate Clients
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
This information is for discussion purposes only, and does not constitute or replace legal advice.
Frequently asked questions for Wills and Estate Clients
Now that we are socially distancing, are you still able to prepare my estate documents?
Yes, we are open and are making every effort to remain open in accordance with guidance of local authorities. We have implemented strict hygiene protocols to protect our clients, staff and their families. We have limited direct contact with clients up to the point where documents must be personally executed, witnessed or commissioned.
Strict hygiene protocols to protect our clients, staff and their families
Limited direct contact with clients
Lawyers contact clients prior to the appointment to review documents virtually and answer questions
Clients attend the office briefly to execute documents that must be signed in the presence of a lawyer
Is Surrogate Court reviewing Probate/Administration applications?
Surrogate Court is continuing to review Probate/Administration applications, however counter service has been discontinued. Should surrogate court fully close, existing applications would be placed on hold.
Do I have to sign documents in the presence of a lawyer?
To comply with legislation, certain documents must be signed in the presence of a lawyer. A lawyer is also required to confirm identity. Docusign is not an option for estate documents.
Should you be unable to attend the office, we can prepare your documents for you to execut in the presence of two wittnesses (please note, one of the wittnesses will need to attend our office to swear an Affidavit of Witness). A lawyer would review the documents with you in detail to ensure they adequatly reflect your wishes prior to signing.
Should you wish to attend the office, please note that every effort is being made by SUMMIT LEGAL GROUP to limit any risk to you when attending our office. We have implemented the following:
- Strict hygiene protocols to protect our clients, staff and their families
- Limited direct contact with clients
- Your lawyer will contact you prior to your appointment to review your documents and answer questions to limit your time at the office
- You will attend the office briefly to execute the documents that must be signed in the presence of your lawyer
- All reporting and copies of documents will be provided digitally
- Clients who are to be quarantined or showing symptoms of COVID-19 will not be seen
NOTE: If you are sick or self isolating due to recent travel please advise us immediately. We will advise parties involved and make best efforts to seek a solution. Further information on how we are protecting our clients is available HERE.
Will your office close if there is a lock-down?
This is new territory for all of us. However, “Lawyers" and "Businesses that support the legal system” is one of the categories deemed essential in Ontario during the “lock down” starting at 11:59 p.m. ET on Tuesday (March 24).
It is likely that Alberta would adopt a comparable list of essential services in the event of a “lock down”. If this is the case, our office will continue to serve the public. We will continue to comply with the requests of local authorities to keep our clients, team and their families safe. We are monitoring the situation daily, and working closely with real estate agents, lenders and other lawyers to create solutions for all parties.
The following CATEGORIES are a list of ALL workplaces on the essential list in Ontario during the COVID-19 crisis (NOTE: List generated from an article in the Financial Post posted dated March 24):
Businesses that supply other essential businesses with services or support.
Businesses engaged in the sale of food for people and animals. Beer, wine and liquor stores can remain open. Gas stations, vehicle repair business, hardware stores, pharmacies, office supply stores and safety supply stores also are included.
Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for delivery or takeout.
Businesses that provide support and maintenance services to maintain properties.
Business that provide or support information technology and telecommunications services, as well as support services such as call centres for delivery.
Taxis, businesses that provide transportation services for other businesses and transportation maintenance groups.
MANUFACTURING AND PRODUCTION
Businesses that manufacture and distribute goods and businesses that support the movement of essential goods within supply chains.
AGRICULTURE AND FOOD PRODUCTION
Businesses that produce food, support the food supply chain and support the safety of food. Businesses that provide veterinary services and those that help with effective waste management also can stay open.
Construction projects and services associated with health care, transportation, energy and justice sectors. Demolition services and businesses that support health and safety environmental rehabilitation projects also can remain open.
Capital markets, credit unions, insurance businesses, businesses that provide pension and employee benefits services, and businesses that provide financial services.
Businesses that deal with supply of mining materials and products, mining operations and mineral exploration. Businesses that support the water sector, those involved in the supply of forestry products and the supply of petroleum also can continue operations.
Businesses that support environmental management and monitoring.
UTILITIES AND COMMUNITY SERVICES
Waste collection, water/sewage treatment, electricity generation, natural gas distribution, road construction, emergency services, corrections and court services.
Newspaper publishers, radio and television broadcasters, telecommunications providers.
Businesses that provide and support research.
Home care services, retirement homes, long-term care facilities and laboratories. Businesses involved in pharmaceutical products and medical supplies, those that support health care can stay open, along with dentists, optometrists and physiotherapists.
Businesses that support the legal system.
Rental and leasing services, mailing services, laundromats, dry cleaners, lawyers, engineers, accountants, funeral services, real estate and moving services, security services, animal health services, child-care services and cheque-cashing services.
Can I prepare my own Will?
Should you wish to prepare your Will independently you can prepare a Holograph Will or use a Will kit.
Handwritten Holographic, Wills are legal in Alberta. If you chose to prepare a Holographic Will it is important that you do not overcomplicate the document and do your research and ensure it is compliant with current legislation.
Key points for creating a Holographic Will:
Date should appear at the top of the Will
State this is your Last Will and Testament. Suggested format is as follows: I, ‘full name’, of ‘city’, ‘province’, write this Holographic Will with the intent of setting forth my wishes for the disposition of my estate after my death.
MUST be completely handwritten (in the testators handwriting)
Name an executor
Note specific gifts
Write a residuary clause, the stating who is to receive everything left over after bills are paid specific gifts have been made
Include the full legal names of agents and beneficiaries, as well as relationships, to avoid ambiguity
Sign the will
A Holographic Will does not need to be witnessed
A Will is not a standardized document. Although there are common elements in all Wills, the complexity and detail vary dependent of the author. Will kits offer templates for very basic Wills, and do not include legal advice.
Use caution as their ‘one size fits all’ format may contain clauses or words the intent of which may not be clear to the courts due to either the ambiguity of the clauses, or the lack of clarity of the language used. Such clauses or words may be stricken from the will or given a contrary meaning, effectively circumventing the wishes of the testator.
Will kits must be witnessed.
Should wish to have us prepare your documents, however you are concerned about attending our office, please refer to FAQ Question 3.
What estate documents should I have?
To ensure adequate protection for you and your family you should have a Will, Enduring Power of Attorney and Personal Directive.
Will – Takes effect upon your death and provides instruction to the appointed person for the distribution of your assets.
Enduring Power of Attorney – Also known as a ‘Living Will’, gives authority to another person to make decisions relating to your finances should you be alive, but unable to make decisions due to physical or mental incapacity.
Personal Directive – Gives authority to another person to make decisions relating to your health care or living accommodations, should you be alive, but unable to make decisions due to physical or mental incapacity.
What is the process for preparing a Will package?
Our office will provide you with a Will Planning Guide, which will assist in making preliminary decisions, and Will Questionnaire. This questionnaire will provide us with the information required to prepare your mirror Wills, Enduring Powers of Attorney and Personal Directives. For your convenience, the questionnaire is a fillable PDF. Complete as thoroughly as possible and forward the to our office once finalized.
Upon receipt of your questionnaire we will draft your documents. We will schedule a time for you to review the drafts with your lawyer over the phone or via a skype call. At this time your lawyer will make any final changes and execute the documents.
Following the phone call or skype meeting you will attend the office to execute the prepared documents in front of your lawyer and a witness. This will take approximately 10-15 minutes. In additional to your executed documents, you will be provided with a Next Steps Guide and Estate Workbook.
Should be unable to attend our office, or prefer not to attend the office for signing, we can prepare the documents for you to print and execute in the presence of two witnesses.
Detailed information on Estate Planning options during the COVID-19 Pandemic is avaialbe HERE.
Can I prepare my own Personal Directive?
It is important that every Albertan over the age of 18 has a Personal Directive. With a Personal Directive the person or people you’ve picked to be your agent would have legal authority to make personal decisions for you.
SUMMIT LEGAL GROUP is pleased to offer COMPLIMENTARY Personal Directives (Living Wills) for all Essential Workers and Health Care Providers. Further information is available HERE.
The Alberta Government has provided a form that that can be used to prepare a basic Personal Directive. Learn more HERE.