Q and A about wills and power of attorney during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Hello, and welcome to the MoneyTalk COVID-19 daily bulletin for Tuesday, March 31. I'm Kim Parlee. In a few moments, we're going to be talking with Georgia Swan-- she's a Tax and Estate Planner with TD Wealth-- on what to do with wills and powers of attorney, as part of our new Ask MoneyTalk series. But first, a wrap of today's news.
Prime Minister Trudeau announced the government has signed multiple agreements with Canadian companies to manufacture medical supplies. They've also allocated $2 billion to purchase protective equipment such as more masks, face shields, test kits, ventilators, and swabs.
China's manufacturing purchasing managers index soared to 52 in March. That's up from a record low of 35.7 in February, indicating the country is slowly emerging from the coronavirus shutdown.
Air Canada is temporarily laying off 16,500 people. That is half of its workforce. The airline is also slashing second-quarter capacity by up to 90%.
The Alberta government announced it's partnering with TC Energy to build the Keystone XL pipeline by investing $1.5 billion into the project. The pipeline will boost shipments of Alberta's oil to US Gulf Coast refineries by 2023.
And Germany plans to introduce coronavirus immunity certificates to allow quarantined citizens who overcame the virus to re-enter society and the workforce. German researchers plan to test 100,000 members of the public at a time.
And that is a wrap of today's news. Now, as promised, Ask MoneyTalk with Georgia Swan on what to do about wills in the age of coronavirus.
Georgia, the one thing coronavirus has reminded us is that everything can turn on a dime, including, in some cases, people can get very sick, and some people are dying. You had told us that a lot of people are asking a lot about wills right now. And the extreme example would be, I don't have a will and I don't have powers of attorney. So what are you telling people?
- Well, first of all, lawyers are still on the job. My colleagues are still trying to get these documents out. We're just being a little bit more creative about it.
So the process of creating a will for a client is actually a rather intimate one for a lawyer. They have to assess capacity. They have to make sure that there's no undue influence, that the person is not being forced to leave their assets in a particular way, and make sure that they have all the information that they need, and that the client fully understands what they're doing and what all their obligations are.
So a lot of those meetings are now happening over video conferencing or over the phone in order to get that information. Where it becomes a little bit more difficult is in signing the documents, because there are specific formalities that are in place in how these documents get signed. Usually there have to be two witnesses who have to be present when the person is signing their will and in the presence of each other.
So again, lawyers are sometimes setting up meetings in their offices, within the requirements of social distancing. Literally, some of my colleagues are telling me that documents are being slid down the boardroom table like a drink across a bar. They're also giving the client instructions on how to sign the document and letting the client go off and do so.
However, that issue is that there are strict rules as to who can be a witness to a will, for example. So it can't be someone who is a beneficiary or the spouse of a beneficiary, and they have to be over 18. Sometimes lawyers are even doing things for signings like going to the client's house, putting the documents in through the patio door, watching the client sign the documents at their kitchen table, pass them back through the patio door, and sitting outside and doing it-- and signing it.
So as long as everybody is seeing each other, they don't necessarily have to be physically in the same room. They just have to be there at the same time.
- I was going to ask you, I guess the same thing would apply-- I mean, this is for the generation of new documents, but also any changes that you need to make. I mean, a lot of us often have documents, like wills and POAs, they have them, but then they get really old, or life has happened and changed and we haven't updated those. So same thing would apply, I assume?
- Absolutely. You should never take out a pen and scratch out something in your will or power of attorney and just write in what you want, especially on the original document. Again, there are certain formalities or processes for even doing that.
So lawyers, more so perhaps than in other times, are giving clients advice as to how to change something if they have to change it on their own, what the right way is to do what's known as a codicil. But again, as I said, law offices are still open. Lawyers may be working predominantly from home, but they are facilitating changes to wills or powers of attorney through the creation of codicils, or advising clients how to make subtle changes if they can.
- Georgia, I don't want to be always talking about the worst-case scenario, but that's what lawyers do, I think, a lot of times, is you focus on this to prepare. But if someone is gravely ill with coronavirus, they don't have a will or a power of attorney, and they are incapacitated, they no longer can do anything, what happens then?
- Well, if they're completely incapacitated and they can't do anything, then it may be that they will not be able to get a will or a power of attorney done, because capacity is very important. They have to be able to understand what they're doing and why they're doing it and provide instruction.
But if we have a situation where someone is under quarantine, and they are capable but they are just ill, there is something called a holograph will. These used to be called battlefield wills. And basically, every province in Ontario, pretty much-- I'm sorry, in Canada pretty much allows for these holograph wills.
What is important about them is that they must be wholly in the handwriting of the person who is making the will. They must be signed by that person and then dated. But they don't need a witness, and that's the important part. So if you do have somebody who, for example, is under quarantine in a nursing home-- which, as we know now, no one can visit-- or in hospital, lawyers are providing those instructions to those people to say OK, here's how you can write out your own will, and here's the kinds of things that have to go into it.
That's not something we usually like to do, but desperate times do call for desperate measures, and lawyers are providing that advice with the caveat that when you recover, come in and get it done properly. These holograph wills are made to work in a pinch. They're not made to be permanent documents.
And also, the Public Guardian and Trustees Offices of most provinces have do-it-yourself power of attorney for property and personal care kits that you can download so you can do those documents yourself. So lawyers are trying to advise clients on where to find the resources so they can do things on their own.
- Please keep in mind you need to think about your own situation and talk to an advisor about what's best for you before you decide to do something. Any other questions, please send them our way. You can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll get to work finding those answers for you. Thanks for watching, and be well.