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Estates & Wills & Trusts

Formal style – no longer black tie

By Nadia M. Harasymowycz

Denim was once relegated to farm land and signified hard work. You wouldn’t dream of wearing it to dinner or a friend’s house. Now, if you go out to a decent restaurant or lounge on a weekend, chances are that 80 per cent of the patrons are wearing jeans. Some of those jeans may have even cost in the upwards of several hundreds of dollars. The world is a dynamic place.

I would come up with hundreds of examples of how things change over time. My great-grandma used to list them for me every time I would see her. Having been born in 1901 she remembered life before the radio, the car, television, airplanes, cellphones and numerous other luxuries we now call necessities. I can still hear her telling me that in her day, “Young people had respect.”

Change, modernization, evolution – these are not new phenomena. Yet, in the legal field, we tend to move slowly. The law of wills and estates in Canada can trace its roots back several hundreds of years to Britain. Among these principles is the requirement for a valid will to be in writing.

A friend send me this link to an article on the American Bar Association website.  An Ohio judge determined that a will was valid. No big deal.  Happens all the time. Judges are asked to do so routinely. Except, this time, the will was written on a Samsung Galaxy tablet computer. The explanation to the court was that there was no paper available. Can you see the shock on my face?

I’m not sure how I feel about this decision. There are certainly implications for the estate bar if this is the route we are going. When law starts to adapt to modern times, as it inevitably will, it will always come as a bit of a shock. In reality, this is an isolated decision out of Ohio. Ohio jurisprudence, isn’t exactly compelling precedent in Ontario. We could never see a decision like this again.  Yet … I’m pretty sure my great-grandma, who scoffed when her farmer husband tried to come into the house in his Levis, would ever had believed that a pair of jeans could sell for several hundreds of dollars and be found in an expensive restaurant.

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