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CCLA & FOLA launches online will registry project

The County of Carleton Law Association (CCLA), with support from The Federation of Ontario Law Associations (FOLA), has launched a new project called Willcheck.ca that allows lawyers to register information for free about their clients’ wills, says FOLA’s chair Jaye Hooper.

Jennifer Walker, the CCLA’s head librarian, says Will Check was born out of the fact that Ontario does not have a registry and the need for a better system of searching for a will.

“Like many other associations, we send out notices to our members looking for will information,” she tells AdvocateDaily.com

“A lawyer will come to us and they’ll say they’re looking for the will of a person who has passed away and the only real way of finding the will is to send out an email to our members and have them check their offices, and then get in touch with the person who was looking for the will. 

“It is an antiquated way of doing things. The technology exists to have a centralized registry for wills but Ontario doesn’t have one.”

In creating Will Check, the CCLA hopes to modernize the system, Walker says. 

Hooper says "this project by the CCLA is a prime example of how our county law library system supports the practising bar across Ontario."

“We’re excited to see the early success of this initiative and look forward to working with the CCLA to roll this out across the rest of the province over the next year or so," she says.

“FOLA financially supported this project after a call for innovative ideas was put out to all our county law libraries.

“We know great and innovative things to support the practising bar are being done every day by local law associations all across Ontario, but those stories are not being told and not enough people know what’s being offered in these centres.

"We hope that highlighting this project will encourage more lawyers to seek out the services being provided in our county law libraries and utilize these great resources even more.”

Will Check is currently available to lawyers in Eastern Ontario (Kingston and all areas east), but there are plans to expand it to the rest of the province. 

“We wanted to start it small and local to kick the tires a bit on the program and the database we built to figure out our own process,” Walker says. “With some technological advancements and investment into it, we could conceivably make it work on a much wider platform for the rest of the province."

The website outlines how lawyers, without any fee, can submit will information and how they can ask for a will search; it also has a sample waiver that lawyers can provide to their clients to release the information to Will Check about the will they have created, Walker says. 

“We wanted to make it as barrier-free as possible so we didn’t want to attach any cost to registering the information with us,” Walker says. “We’ve tried to make the website as simple and easy-to-use as possible, and to include all the information lawyers are looking for."

The will itself is not stored on the system — just the name, address and a few other key pieces of identifying information, she adds.

Walker says during consultations with lawyers in the planning stages of the project, feedback was primarily concerned with client confidentiality and the CCLA had a lawyer draft the release form that’s found on the Will Check website, which was launched in May at the East Region Solicitors Conference. 

“We’re really happy about the interaction lawyers have experienced with it so far,” she says. “They are giving us information about current wills they are drawing up with their clients.

"As they are preparing wills, they are depositing the information with us. Some seem to have contacted clients about wills that were prepared prior to May 2017, but most seem to be using it on a go-forward basis with new wills they are creating."

In just a few months, Will Check has gathered information on about 300 wills, Walker says.

“We’ve also had some requests to do a will search," she says. 

Lawyers have expressed to the CCLA that they have wanted a similar service for a long time, Walker says. 

The association is also planning to build a French interface to offer the will service in that language, she adds. 

 

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