Toronto Estate Law Blog
Wills in Times of War
When troops march off to war, not all of them come home. Earlier this month, on Remembrance Day, we took some time to honour our veterans and we mourn and celebrate those who sacrificed everything for our country. Paul Trudelle’s recent blog eloquently details the lives and deaths of three veterans who all lived on Pine Street in Winnipeg, now renamed Valour Road in their honour.
Times of war are often tumultuous. The horror of war can leave soldiers in circumstances where they must risk their lives at a moment’s notice. There is no time to consider estate plans, to visit lawyers, or to rally witnesses.
Under Ontario’s Succession Law Reform Act, the formal requirements for making a Will are quite onerous. A Will must be properly executed, or it is invalid. Section 4 requires that a properly executed Will must be signed by the testator (or by someone in his/her presence and under his/her direction). The signature must be at the end of the Will. The testator must make or acknowledge the signature in the presence of two witnesses who must be present at the same time. The two witnesses must then sign in the presence of the testator. Even slight technical deviations from this formula may invalidate a Will. See Natalia Angelini’s recent post for more information.
Holograph wills may also be valid under section 6, but they too must meet some requirements. The holograph Will needs no witnesses, but it must be written entirely in the handwriting of the testator, with his or her signature.
Those who make sacrifices for Canada, its way of life, its people, its government, and its laws deserve to have their last wishes respected by those laws that they fought to defend.
Section 5 of the Succession Law Reform Act offers a third, less onerous standard for executing a Will to members of the Canadian Forces, and to members of other naval, land or air forces, while in active service. They do not need witnesses or typed documents. They do not need to handwrite the document in their own writing, a task which may prove difficult in a bunker or field hospital. All that is required to make a will is “a writing signed by him or her or by some other person in his or her presence and under his or her direction”. This provision allows the testamentary wishes of a member of our armed forces to be valid and enforceable without burdening them with formalities.
This provision allows some measure of comfort to those who risk all. Whatever may happen, they need not worry that their loved ones will not be looked after, that their wishes will not be followed.
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