Article June 12, 2024

Search for a will: new electronic procedure

Since June 11, the Chambre des notaires du Québec (CNQ) has been issuing will and mandate search certificates in electronic format (PDF). Executors of an estate, who need to locate the last will and testament of the deceased, now have access to a faster and more secure procedure.

The introduction of the electronic certificate represents a significant improvement over the old paper method, according to Dahlia Chalati, a notary in Montreal. "Applicants can make a request online and obtain a valid certificate much more quickly, sometimes on the same day."

Previously, one had to wait to receive the valid document in paper format with a watermark, a process that could take up to 30 days if the death was recent. "Notaries must register the wills they have drafted every 15 days in the Registry of Testamentary Dispositions. If the death occurs before the will is registered, the waiting period will be longer," explains Ms. Chalati.

If the certificate is valid, the applicants (notaries, lawyers, and individuals) will see it displayed on the screen. The document can be downloaded, printed, and shared. "The law on the legal framework for information technology guarantees that the electronic copy has the same value as the paper copy," emphasizes the notary. Therefore, there is no longer a need to make multiple requests to obtain an authenticated document when it is required for different procedures.

In addition to saving time, the electronic version of the search certificate provides increased security against fraud, with online validation helping to prevent cases of fraud or manipulation, according to the CNQ. Each certificate has a unique number and a verification code that allows users to confirm its authenticity directly on the CNQ's website.

It should be noted that certificates issued in paper format before June 10 are still valid. However, they cannot be validated online.


Different procedure at the Bar

Lawyers can also hold their clients' wills, so it is necessary to make a testamentary search request with the Barreau du Québec. The procedure differs depending on the applicants. Lawyers and notaries are invited to submit their requests through a form available on the Barreau du Québec's website. Citizens can choose between the online form or the paper form, explains the organization via a press release.

The issuance of the testamentary search certificate by the Barreau is not automatic; a validation process is required. Upon receipt of the request, a verification is carried out in the register of testamentary dispositions to find, or not, a deed in the name of the deceased targeted by the request. The processing time for the request is generally less than a week.

The certificate issued by the Barreau is always in paper format. This document contains an embossed watermark that confirms its validity. However, the organization is pursuing the goal of offering a certificate in electronic format.

Download and validate certificates of search for the Registers | Chambre des notaires du Québec (