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Digitizing the Business of Wills: NoticeConnect’s Canada Will Registry

NoticeConnect’s website: https://www.noticeconnect.com/

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Ontario to reconsider the role of technology in the drafting and storage of wills. Emergency orders issued this spring have, for example, allowed testators and witnesses to use virtual communication platforms while signing wills in separate locations. The legal profession is now discussing whether the role of technology could be expanded even further on a permanent basis, such as by allowing wills to be created and stored entirely electronically. The Globe and Mail has reported on this idea at: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-ontario-eyes-converting-emergency-pandemic-measures-on-wills-into/.

As these discussions continue to evolve, it is worthwhile to take note of what technological advances have already accomplished. NoticeConnect is actively involved in this area, as it provides an online platform to advertise for creditors, and a centralized electronic will registry.

The Canada Will Registry (the “Registry”) is designed to help law firms simplify their will storage procedures, and to make it easier for a testator’s will be found when that testator has died. A testator or their lawyer can register the will or other estate planning document in the Registry by providing the testator’s name, the type of document, and the document’s storage location.

For a $95 fee, anyone can then submit a search query to the Registry. NoticeConnect does not disclose the result of the search, but does provide the person who submitted the query with a Search Certificate, which they can use to demonstrate that they have done their due diligence. If a will that matches the search query is found in the Registry, the system will alert the person of firm that registered that will, and give them the opportunity to contact the person who submitted the search.

According to NoticeConnect’s website, over 100,000 wills have been registered so far. A “case study” recently posted on NoticeConnect’s blog demonstrates how the Registry can aid a firm in managing and organizing information, and can greatly reduce the time needed to find a specific document. The families of testators can also benefit greatly from the Registry, through both the ease of finding a will when one exists, and greater certainty that there is no missing will when a will is not found.

The Registry is available anywhere in Canada, and its usefulness should only increase as more estate planning documents are registered.

As stated by the CEO of NoticeConnect in the Globe and Mail article linked above, “COVID has made the profession more open to the idea of doing things remotely and electronically”. We will watch with interest as the Registry continues to grow, and NoticeConnect continues to expand the range of electronic tools available to testators, estate administrators, and estate planning professionals.

This paper is intended for the purposes of providing information only and is to be used only for the purposes of guidance. This paper is not intended to be relied upon as the giving of legal advice and does not purport to be exhaustive.

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