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.