Tuesday, 1 November 2022
Electronic witnessing of documents during the COVID-19 emergency period
Electronic witnessing of documents in the ACT: changes from 31 December 2022
Under the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act 2020 (ACT) certain documents (Affidavits, Wills, Health Directions, and General/Enduring Powers of Attorney) were able to be witnessed electronically during the COVID-19 emergency period despite any law to the contrary. The COVID-19 emergency period ends at the end of a 3-month period during which no COVID‑19 emergency has been in force.
On 8 August 2022 the Public Health Emergency Declaration was extended until 11.59pm on 30 September 2022. The COVID‑19 emergency has not been extended past that date.
This means that, unless a further COVID‑19 emergency is declared, the ability to witness these documents remotely will end at 11.59pm on 31 December 2022 and usual witnessing requirements for these documents will apply. For example, Wills must be witnessed by two or more witnesses physically present at the same time in the presence of the will-maker.
It is unlikely that the COVID‑19 emergency will be redeclared. Instead, the ACT has implemented a COVID-19 Management Declaration Framework under the Public Health Act 1997 (ACT). This means moving away from widespread Public Health Emergency declarations. Instead, the Framework allows targeted public health measures to be put in place.