Husband and wife team Erin Bury and Kevin Oulds owners of Willful are shown in this undated handout image. The new coronavirus that has spread rapidly throughout Canada appears to have led to a sharp demand for wills. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Becca Lemire

Husband and wife team Erin Bury and Kevin Oulds owners of Willful are shown in this undated handout image. The new coronavirus that has spread rapidly throughout Canada appears to have led to a sharp demand for wills. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Becca Lemire

Canadians rush to prepare their wills amid ongoing COVID-19 uncertainty

Dying without a will risks having your assets distributed according to a provincial formula, which varies across the country

Nadine Parker couldn’t have guessed that she’d be writing her will at the age of 32.

But four months pregnant with identical twins and married to a nurse, Parker said the growing COVID-19 pandemic has them both confronting their mortality.

The grim task of preparing for death was necessary. The talk with her husband, she said, was tough.

“It was honest, it was raw,” said Parker, noting they both drafted wills.

“And it was scary at the same time too, because it’s not something that you ever sit down and actually talk about with one another.”

The new coronavirus that has spread rapidly throughout Canada appears to have led to a sharp demand for wills.

Erin Bury, CEO of the Toronto-based online service Willful, said her business has been busy ever since March 12 — the day after actor Tom Hanks announced he had tested positive for coronavirus and the day after the NBA shut down.

“The first eight days of April compared to the first few days of March, it’s been a 620 per cent increase in sales, and 450 per cent increase in traffic,” Bury said.

This time last month, “nobody was really concerned about it, everyone was still in the mindset of, ‘Oh, it’s just the flu.’”

The Ontario government removed one of the big barriers to writing wills last week when it issued an emergency order to allow virtual signing of wills and powers of attorney through online video platforms.

While other provinces offer more flexibility, Ontario’s laws required in-person witnessing of both wills and powers of attorney by two people, who are neither a beneficiary nor a spouse of a beneficiary.

“That’s been the biggest question that we’ve gotten from seniors, is: ‘How can I actually get this executed?’ Not just the documents created, but executed during COVID?” Bury said.

“And the best answer we had (before the emergency order) was ‘Well, wear gloves and make sure you respect the six-feet rule.’ Virtual witnessing … is the biggest advancement in estate law in a long time and something that will make it a lot easier for people to get this done during COVID.”

READ MORE: Health Canada approves portable COVID-19 test that can provide results within an hour

The illness causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

Sonya Northeast, a 34-year-old mom of two, is considered high risk for COVID-19 after almost dying of streptococcus pneumonia a couple of years ago.

“My illness kind of came out of the blue and I thought, ‘Oh my God, what if I had actually died?’ All my money would have been locked up by the government for years, there’s going to be legal fees that (my family) would have had to pay out of pocket,” Northeast said.

“That hit me like a nice big brick wall. I had been one of those people who put it off — I’m not older, I didn’t think about (a will). But you never know.”

Northeast, who said she completed Willful’s online documents in the time it took her to “finish a cup of tea,” said getting her affairs in order for her kids was more reassuring than emotional.

“Just knowing they’ll be taken care of just kind of puts me a little bit more at ease.”

Dying without a will risks having your assets distributed according to a provincial formula, which varies across the country.

If there is no surviving parent, minor children would go to whoever applies to be the guardian — even if it’s a relative you didn’t like. Pets most often end up in shelters.

It also takes longer to administer an estate and leads to guesswork and uncertainty — and arguments — among family members.

Willful charges between $99 and $249, which includes future updates. A traditional lawyer charges anywhere from $400 into the four figures, depending on geography and the complexity of the estate.

Parker, who is a TV producer for “ET Canada,” knows her husband Curtis stands a greater risk of becoming ill as a front-line health-care provider. Up until a few months ago, Curtis was an emergency room nurse at Toronto General Hospital, but is currently working from home flagging and offering support to high-risk Sheridan College students.

“There is a very large possibility that he is going to be ending up back in emergency to help out,” Parker said.

Also key is power of attorney, particularly since COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized aren’t allowed visitors, and often can’t express their wishes to doctors or loved ones.

“If you were to get COVID and you were on a ventilator and you weren’t able to communicate, a power of attorney puts someone in charge of making medical decisions on your behalf and it really allows you to say, ‘You know what? I want you to pull the plug if anything happens,’ or ’No, keep me on life support if that is ever the case,’” Bury said.

“It’s more important now than ever, because having the emergency plans in place means that you’re basically giving someone the power to speak on your behalf, whether you’re alive and unable to communicate, or you’ve passed away.”

Lori Ewing , The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
81 new cases of COVID-19 detected in Interior Health Friday

One additional staff member at Kelowna long-term care home tests positive, no new deaths

Dr. Albert de Villiers, Chief Medical Health Officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
‘People need to start listening’: IH top doc combats COVID-19 misconceptions

Dr. Albert de Villiers says light at the end of the tunnel will grow in step with people’s adherence to PHO guidance

(File)
One death and 82 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

1,981 total cases, 609 are active and those individuals are on isolation

A laboratory technician holds a dose of a COVID-19 novel coronavirus vaccine candidate that’s ready for trial on monkeys at the National Primate Research Center of Thailand. (Mladen Antonov - AFP)
Update: Interior Health reports 66 new COVID-19 infections, 4 in ICU

570 cases are active; 18 in hospital, 4 in intensive care

A new wood chip shelter was constructed this fall to house chips for the boiler serving the North Thompson Sportsplex. The shelter was built by OTL Construction and chips will be supplied by local contractor Max Gunster. The shelter will allow a six-month stock supply of chips. From l-r: TNRD Director A Carol Schaffer, DOC Mayor Merlin Blackwell, Marshall McRae of OTL Construction and Gunster of Max Gunster Contracting. (Stephanie Hagenaars photo)
New chip shelter helps to keep energy costs low for District of Clearwater

After the Canfor mill shutdown in 2019, the District of Clearwater began… Continue reading

A snow moon rises over Mt. Cheam in Chilliwack on Feb. 8, 2020. Friday, Dec. 11, 2020 is Mountain Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Dec. 6 to 12

Mountain Day, Dewey Decimal System Day and Lard Day are all coming up this week

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
First Nations Leadership Council demands justice for victims of B.C. social worker

Union of BC Indian Chiefs calls actions of Robert Saunders ‘nothing short of complete depravity’

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Montreal Alouettes’ Michael Sam is set to make his pro football debut as he warms up before the first half of a CFL game against the Ottawa Redblacks in Ottawa on Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. Sam became the first publicly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. He signed with the Montreal Alouettes after being released by St. Louis, but abruptly left after playing one game. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Study finds Canada a ‘laggard’ on homophobia in sports

Among females, 44 per cent of Canadians who’ve come out to teammates reported being victimized

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

Information about the number of COVID-19 cases in Abbotsford and other municipalities poses a danger to the public, the Provincial Health Services Authority says. (Photo: Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News)
More city-level COVID-19 data would jeopardize public health, B.C. provincial health agency says

Agency refuses to release weekly COVID-19 case counts, citing privacy and public health concerns

Most Read