Online estate planning company Willful petitions Ontario government to allow for digital signing and storing of wills

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Remote witnessing, electronic signatures, and secure online storage would make estate planning accessible for all Ontarians

Over 80% of Ontarians believe digital signatures and online storage of wills is already legal in the province, but that’s not the case.

A new survey from Willful, Canada’s leading online estate planning company, found that permanent changes to Ontario wills and estates legislation, including allowing electronic signatures and secure online storage, would enable more Canadians to finalize their wills and power of attorney documents. According to the survey, 65% of Ontarians don’t have an up-to-date will, and 50% of people said they would have finished their will sooner if they could have completed the process online.

Willful launched a Change.org petition today aimed at amending Ontario’s Succession Law Reform Act to allow for digital signing, storage, and witnessing of wills. Their survey found that over 80% of Ontarians believe digital signatures and online storage of wills are already legal in the province, but that’s not the case. Currently, the law requires typed wills to be printed and signed in the presence of witnesses who also sign the will - something that proved difficult due to COVID-19 social distancing measures.

“COVID-19 caused thousands of Canadians to create or update their will, but the requirements for printing, signing, and in-person witnessing meant many weren’t able to complete this important task,” said Erin Bury, CEO, Willful. “Technology is meant to make things more accessible and more secure - it’s time to modernize Ontario’s estate laws in order to help Canadians finish their estate planning documents online.”

When COVID-19 hit Canada, Willful experienced a 500% spike in demand from Canadians who needed to complete a will. The company also gave out 2,500 free plans to frontline healthcare workers. Their survey found that COVID-19 caused 59% of Canadians to think about emergency preparedness, and 48% of people are more likely to complete important documents online due to the pandemic.

On April 7, Ontario’s Attorney General passed an emergency order that allowed for virtual witnessing of wills and power of attorney documents, though it still required signatures on physical documents. Since then, other provinces including British Columbia have followed suit, but these are only temporary measures due to COVID-19. BC has also proposed legislation, Bill 21, that will allow for electronic signatures, online storage of wills, and online witnessing to continue post-pandemic.

Survey highlights include:
65% of Ontarians don’t have an up-to-date will
COVID-19 caused 62% of Ontarians to think more about emergency preparedness
48% of Ontarians talk to their friends/family about estate planning
81% of Ontarians think it is legal to sign your will online in Canada
91% of Ontarians think it’s legal to store your will online in Canada
41% of Ontarians think you should be able to store your will online
That number is 50% for Ontarians under 35
Over half (52%) of Ontarians said the ability to complete, sign, and store important documents online would make their life easier
56% of Canadians under 35 who have a will would have completed their will sooner if they had been able to finish it completely online

By amending the Succession Law Reform Act to allow for electronic signatures and online storage of wills, it will make the process more accessible for Ontarians, while cutting down on fraud. Digital signatures will cut down on fraud by providing secure identity verification and an audit trail, and secure digital storage will cut down on fraud by removing the ability to destroy a will.

“Ontario has an opportunity to be thought leader when it comes to the modernization of estate planning in Canada. Consumers are demanding digital processes across all industries, and estate planning is no different,” said Bury. “Digital processes will cut down on fraud, make it easier for families to find wills, and make it more accessible for seniors, those in rural areas, and those who can’t afford to visit a lawyer.”

Survey methodology: AngusReid polled a representative sample of 1,500 Canadians on July 10, 2020.

About Willful
Willful is on a mission to change the way Canadians prepare for and deal with death. Their first product is an online platform that makes it affordable, convenient, and easy for Canadians to create a legal will online. The platform provides simplified estate planning services (creation of a Legal Will, Power of Attorney for Personal Care, and Power of Attorney for property), enabling consumers to create a will and/or power of attorney by following a clear step-by-step process. Willful’s platform was developed in collaboration with leading estate lawyers, and has pricing plans starting at $99. Willful is based in Toronto, and it is currently available to residents of Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Manitoba.

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Erin Bury, CEO
Willful
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