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Is it Time to Amend Section 4 of the Succession Law Reform Act?

NoticeConnect has started an online petition to the Ontario Government calling for a change to section 4 of the Succession Law Reform Act[1] (the “SLRA”), which requires a will to be signed by the testator and attested by two witnesses all being present at the same time, to allow for the remote witnessing of wills via video conferencing.

Section 12 (1) of the SLRA further states that a will attested by a person to whom or to whose then spouse a beneficial devise, bequest or other disposition is given, the devise, bequest or other disposition is void so far only as it concerns the person so attesting, the spouse; or a person claiming under either of them, unless a court is satisfied that the person attesting nor the spouse exercised any improper or undue influence.[2] The provision states that despite the bequest or disposition being void, the person so attesting is a competent witness to prove the execution of the will or its validity or invalidity.[3]

In light of the current health crisis, many people are wanting to change or amend their wills, however, as they are practicing social distancing and the only people they are most likely interacting with are family members or individuals to whom they would like to leave a bequest or a portion of their estate, they are finding it difficult to execute a will in compliance with section 4, unless they create a holograph will, which is done wholly in the testator’s own handwriting and signature, without formality, and without the presence, attestation or signature of a witness.[4]

While creating a holograph will is useful at a time such as this, it might not be realistic or useful to older adults, who might find it difficult to write an entire will in their own hand writing or if they fear that there might be a greater possibility for a holograph will to be set aside in a potential will challenge.

Technology has come a long way, and it might just be time to amend the law to keep up with changing times, and to stay safe.

Link to NoticeConnect’s full petition online

Don’t forget to sign the petition!

[1] R.S.O 1990, c.S.26

[2] Section 12(3) of the SLRA

[3] Section 12(1) of the SLRA

[4] Section 6 of the SLRA

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