Saskatchewan lawyers see uptick in will preparations during COVID-19 pandemic

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WATCH: Two Saskatoon lawyers say more people are looking into creating or updating their wills during the COVID-19 pandemic – Apr 20, 2020

Creating your will is not the most pleasant thing to consider.

However, two Saskatoon lawyers say more people are putting it on their to-do lists during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re just finding a little bit of a rush in terms of people saying, ‘You know, maybe I should get this done now,’” Saskatoon lawyer Dan Tangjerd told Global News.

“It’s not a panic. We’re not suddenly flooded with calls, but there’s definitely a noticeable uptick in the number of inquiries.”

READ MORE: Grocery program bringing Saskatchewan communities together during coronavirus pandemic

Most of those inquiries have come from people over 50, he said.

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Elke Churchman, another Saskatoon lawyer, said she has received requests from health-care workers and young parents.

“It’s more a younger demographic, and they’re the ones that usually don’t think about doing wills,” she said.

“This whole thing is making people feel a little bit more vulnerable and thinking about, ‘What happens if one of us gets sick and dies?’”

With four deaths related to COVID-19 in Saskatchewan so far, the fatality rate is relatively low compared to other regions.

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Pandemic or not, though, both lawyers said it’s a wise choice to prepare a will.

“Last wills and testaments have got to be one of the easiest things in the world for people to just put off indefinitely,” Tangjerd said.

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Without a will, power of attorney, and health care directives, families can be left scrambling following the death of a loved one, Churchman said.

“You have to figure that out on top of dealing with the grief and the loss,” she said.

READ MORE: 7 bad things that can happen if you don’t have a will — and how to get one for cheap

Creating a will is straightforward, she said, adding many lawyers are providing discounted rates during the pandemic.

Tangjerd noted the pandemic temporarily made the process more difficult, as will signings require two independent witnesses. The practice ensures there isn’t any undue influence in the singing of a will, though it isn’t particularly physical-distancing friendly.

Last week, the province made a temporary legislation change because of the public emergency, allowing for the remote signing of wills using electronic means like Skype.

For those hoping to keep things as simple as possible, Tangjerd pointed to holographic wills, which don’t require witnesses because they’re written completely in the testator’s handwriting.

“That document needs to be perfectly clear and legible to a stranger reading it,” he said.

“Someone who has never met you and does not know you from a hole in the ground needs to be able to read that document and know exactly what you want done.”

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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