British Columbia amends estates and power of attorney statutes
The Bill’s provisions will establish alternative processes for the witnessing of powers of attorney (PoAs) and representation agreements, allowing “the temporary measures adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic to be made permanent by regulation”, the provincial government has said.
The Power of Attorney Act and the Representation Agreement Act both currently provide that the adult making the PoA or appointing representatives must sign in the presence of two witnesses, who must also sign in the presence of the adult. For a PoA, named attorneys must also sign the instrument in the presence of two witnesses.
The Bill will therefore make amendments to the regulations on the meaning of being “in the presence” of another, signing in counterpart, required qualifications of witnesses and additional information to be included. The BC government says that these amendments will “add authority to enable remote (electronic) witnessing of enduring powers of attorney and representation agreements”.
The legislation also makes amendments to the Wills, Estates and Succession Act that will expand the list of eligible estate administrators in the event of intestacy. Currently, these eligible persons include: the deceased’s spouse; a child of the deceased; an intestate successor of the deceased; a person nominated by the deceased’s spouse, children or intestate successors; and the Public Guardian and Trustee of British Columbia.
In the case that the deceased does not have a lawful heir and their estate therefore passes to the government under the Escheat Act, the Bill provides that the government can nominate a person to administer the estate.
The provisions relating to the Wills, Estates and Succession Act will commence when the Bill receives royal assent. Amendments to the Power of Attorney Act and the Representation Agreement Act will come into force on a date determined by regulation set out by the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia and the King's Privy Council for Canada.
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