A Guide to Modern Wills: The Digital Will, Electronic Wills, and Online Wills

The law pertaining to Wills has been in place for almost 200 years. Over that time, very little has changed in the requirements to create a legal Last Will and Testament. The law has always stated that a Will must be written on paper and signed in ink in the presence of two witnesses, who must also sign the document in ink in the presence of each other. But over the last 20 years we have seen the emergence of online Will services, Digital Wills, and Electronic Wills. The definitions of these modern Wills have been evolving, and cause a great deal of confusion. In this article we would like to explain the differences between these documents.

Modern Wills
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An Online Will

A document written by an online Will writing service, but then downloaded and printed to be signed in the presence of two witnesses. It’s a Will writing service offered online. There isn’t really such a thing as an Online Will, other than the Electronic Will described below.

A Digital Will

A document that describes the handling of your digital assets, including those of financial value and those of sentimental value. These can range from social media accounts to cryptocurrencies. This is described outside of your traditional Last Will and Testament, and usually appoints somebody to manage this activity (i.e. your “Digital Executor”).

An Electronic Will

A document that is signed electronically by yourself and by your two witnesses. The signing is usually completed remotely via video link, and the document can then be stored electronically in the cloud. At the time of writing, British Columbia is the only Province that legally accepts an electronically signed and stored Will.

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A short explainer on electronically signing a Will in British Columbia

For the last 200 years, the law that describes how to write a Will has barely changed. You have been required to write a Will on a piece of paper and sign it in ink in the presence of two witnesses.

In 2020 because of COVID, some laws changed to allow witnesses to be “virtually” present.

However, the Will would still need to be mailed to each witness to be signed in ink.

2021 has seen the introduction of e-signing and digital Wills in some jurisdictions, and Bill 21 in British Columbia will make BC the first Canadian Province to allow a Will to be electronically signed and digitally stored.

LegalWills.ca has teamed up with the Canadian company Syngrafii to create the most complete electronic Will solution available to Canadians.

If you are a resident in BC, you can choose the option to e-sign your Will. You can invite your witnesses to a scheduled Video Signing Room. When you gather, you will be guided through each of the places to sign in the document.

LegalWills.ca then allows you to store your signed document in your Digital Vault together with an audit trail called a “Masterfile”.

You can then set your Executor up as a “keyholder”, to access the signed Last Will and Testament as well as the Masterfile, which can be printed and submitted to the probate courts in BC.

The partnership between LegalWills.ca and Syngrafii, together with the Digital Vault and Keyholder solution, makes this the perfect tool for creating and storing an electronically signed Will under the new Digital Will laws in BC.