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Pandemic caused surge of British Columbians to write their wills—and it's not slowing

A B.C. notary says business has been great.

It's been a hectic two years for British Columbia's notaries as more people rushed to get their wills done during the pandemic — and there's no sign it's slowing down.

According to Victoria-based notary Beverly Carter, the COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated to people their own mortality and made them more comfortable talking about death. 

"In the earlier stages, there was a lot more fear, so that was one factor in them coming to get their will,” says Carter. "People didn’t have all those excess activities so that ‘to-do' list that they had for years now is raising up to the top of the list to get done.”

Business for Carter has doubled since the pandemic started.

"It's been great,” she says with a smile. "It’s been a very interesting time to work in the legal industry.”

But business isn't just booming in Victoria.

"I can confirm that BC Notaries have seen an increase in inquires from the public related to the preparation of personal planning documents such as Wills, Healthcare Directives and Powers of Attorney throughout British Columbia during the pandemic," says Chad Rintoul, the chief executive officer of the BC Notaries Association.

Interestingly, it's not the usual suspects — first-time homeowners, new parents and those ailing — who have brought notaries business. 

"A person could be relatively healthy," says Carter of her customers, adding that at the beginning of the pandemic "none of us knew if were going to be affected by (the virus)."

Similarly, she's noted a trend of British Columbians opting to have professional, neutral executors included in their wills to deal with their estates — often because family members may have been living in a different province. 

How do you begin the process of getting a will in B.C.?

Knowing how to begin the process of starting a will is one of the top concerns Carter says she hears from clients. That's why she created a will questionnaire and workbook to help people organize their information as a starting point.

“It allows someone to step into their life, and capture their information in an easy way and store it so that they’re ready,” she says. 

The process is also helpful for people to realize that they may have more assets than they realize. 

"You probably have a bank account and you might have a car and that’s enough,” says Carter. 

Another suggestion from Carter is if you’re in a blended family, you should take the time to get a will and know the laws around that dynamic. 

"You want to have your backup in place so if you need it someone is there to help you out,” she says. "Get the documents done, let them collect dust and if you need it, you really need it. And if you don’t, you’ve had a good life.”

The increased interest in getting a will in B.C. has caused some backups, notes Carter. In some cases, it may take a few weeks before you hear back. 

The price of a will varies across B.C., but at the lowest, simplest end you could expect to pay $400 and upwards.