Remote execution of legal documents allowed during pandemic

B.C. Government has issued two emergency orders that temporarily suspend in-person execution requirements for wills and personal planning instruments, including representation agreements and enduring powers of attorney.

The emergency orders address concerns raised by the legal community, including the regulatory bodies and representative associations for lawyers and notaries public, as well as by members of the public, regarding the requirement that such legal documents be executed and witnessed in person.

The new orders benefit both legal professionals and their clients, particularly seniors and immuno-compromised people who may be hesitant to travel into more populated areas during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as British Columbians who live in rural and remote areas and are trying to limit travel outside of their communities.

Under the orders, which are effective as of May 19, 2020, careful safeguards will be established to reduce fraud, including ensuring legal professionals (lawyers and notaries public) are involved in remote execution; prescribing the circumstances in which documents can be executed remotely; and providing strict parameters and requirements around remote execution.

The emergency orders are tied to the provincial state of emergency and will expire when it is lifted.