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A perennial problem with practising law in Northern Ireland is that clients often read things in the national press which relate to England & Wales but assume that they apply here. Because Northern Ireland is a separate legal jurisdiction, and indeed as many matters are reserved to the Assembly at Stormont, we do not always follow the changes in England & Wales, or if we do it may come with a time delay.
An extremely important development as regards wills in England & Wales is the recent announcement that they may now be witnessed via video conferencing such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams. This temporarily disapplies the usual requirement under the Wills Act 1837 for a will to be signed in the presence of two witnesses, both of whom are physically present at the time of signature. Because execution of a will via the internet does not amount to the ‘physical presence’ of a witness the law has been changed in the wake of the current Coronavirus crisis. The rules have also been made retrospective to 31 January 2020 and will continue until January 2022.
However, it is extremely important that testators in Northern Ireland appreciate that the equivalent legislation has not as yet been changed here and, whilst the Assembly may of course introduce similar changes, it is necessary in the meantime to continue to comply fully with the existing rules.
At Cleaver Fulton Rankin we can advise fully on all arrangements to be made for the creation and execution of wills during the current crisis. Should you require any advice please contact a member of our Private Client team.