Alberta Government Proposes to Continue Remote Signing of Estate Planning Documents

This blog was initially published on June 24, 2020.

Update:  This week, the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General made Ministerial Regulations extending the deeming provisions for virtual witnessing of testamentary documents until August 15, 2022.

On June 26, 2020, Bill 24 received Royal Assent and came into force, with the estate planning provisions taking effect retroactively.

The COVID-19 Pandemic Response Statutes Amendment Act, 2020 (CPRSAA) provides that the Ministerial Regulations may prescribe time periods in which the remote signing and witnessing provisions in the Personal Directives Act (PDA), Powers of Attorney Act (PAA) and Wills and Succession Act (WSA) will apply, subject to the conditions set out below.

The initial Ministerial Order temporarily allowing for remote signing and witnessing of estate planning documents is set to expire on August 14, 2020. In anticipation, the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General made Ministerial Regulations this week providing that the deeming provisions in the PDA, PAA and WSA shall be in effect from August 15, 2020 until August 15, 2022.

Given that the personal health risks of in-person meetings will not subside any time soon, these Ministerial Regulations will ensure that Albertans have access to estate and care planning until it is safe to meet face-to-face. Until then, we will continue to provide excellent advice and legal services remotely. See you on the web.

Bill 24, the COVID-19 Pandemic Response Statutes Amendment Act, was introduced in the Alberta Legislature and passed first reading on June 18, 2020.

The Bill proposes amendments to 15 acts across seven ministries and would allow for pandemic response efforts to continue now that the provincial state of public health emergency has ended.

One of the highlights of this Bill includes an extension for and expansion of the remote signing and witnessing of estate planning documents. We previously reported on Ministerial Order 39/2020, which amended the relevant legislation to allow for remote signing and witnessing of Wills, Personal Directives, and Enduring Powers of Attorney during the state of emergency as long as a lawyer is providing legal advice and services to the testator, donor or maker, and all parties are able to communicate in real-time via videoconference. (Our previous Insight on this topic can be found here.) Bill 24 follows that ministerial order and additionally provides for these estate planning documents to be signed in counterpart, an element missing from the initial Order, and for the relevant Minister to prescribe additional time periods in which these provisions could be re-enacted in the future.

Should Bill 24 receive Royal Assent, the estate planning provisions would be effective retroactively from May 15, 2020. This Bill would not only provide for continued access to safe, socially-distant estate and care planning during the current COVID-19 pandemic, but also establish an expanded emergency-response framework ensuring that Albertans maintain uninterrupted access to these important legal services in the future.