About the New Bill 161 – Proposed Legislation Tweaks Legal Aid, Estates
The government has recently introduced proposed legislation, Bill 161, which is officially called the Smarter and Stronger Justice Act, 2019. If passed, this amending legislation would have very broad ramifications, and is being positioned as a much-needed improvement to allow for greater access to the justice system. As drafted, it would impact broad and diverse areas of law such as Class Proceedings, Legal Aid, Wills and Estates, and Juries.
From a Family Law perspective, it has only tangential or indirect effect, but the proposed changes are nonetheless important to be aware of.
For example, for those who rely on lawyers who do legal aid work, it stipulates that the funding for Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) would remain the same for 2020-2021. It would also allow for changes to the Legal Aid system itself, for example allowing LAO to make rules around its own operational processes so that public access can be facilitated.
The proposed legislation also tweaks the law relating to the requirements around lawyers commissioning their clients’ Affidavits for court proceedings. Paralegals would also be allowed to serve as notaries in some circumstances. Also, people would be allowed to verify their identities and certain legal documents online – for example the documents used for starting a claim in court, or for gifting a used vehicle to a family member.
There are also suggested changes to the Public Guardian and Trustee Act, addressing those situations in which the Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT) holds property belonging to someone who has died. In those cases, the PGT would be subject to a new simplified procedure under which it can pay up to $20,000 of that property to the deceased person’s beneficiaries.
Finally, there are also intended changes to the legislation governing Estates: For small dollar-value Estates, the amendments would allow for a simplified procedure, streamlining the process for administering the Estate after the person’s death. They also focus on simplifying the steps needed to register a death in cases where the remains of the deceased are not in the family’s possession.
Bill 161 is only at the First Reading stage, effective December 9, 2019. For links to more information, see:
For the government press release click: here
For the government announcement on YouTube click: here