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Clearly the execution of a new Will at this time will be a priority for many clients and solicitors are under a duty to act in a timely manner, taking into account factors such as age and state of health, which will be of particular concern at the moment. At the same time many legal practitioners will be struggling to work at full capacity due to lack of childcare.
The Department for Education is clear that every child who can safely be cared for at home should be in order to limit the spread of coronavirus. See Guidance for schools, childcare providers, colleges and local authorities in England on maintaining educational provision.
The government recognises that keeping the justice system running is vital and has clarified that solicitors acting in connection with the execution of Wills are key workers. This means that they can keep sending their child(ren) to school if they cannot be safely cared for at home.
There is no guidance on solicitors who undertake probate matters, although many such solicitors will also undertake work in connection with the execution of Wills. Note, however, that in the Law Society’s guidance: Update on legal practitioner keyworkers of 23 March 2020, it states:
‘…some legal practitioners will intermittently fall into this [key worker] category because they need to provide advice or attend a hearing for an urgent matter relating, for example, to safeguarding of children or vulnerable adults, or a public safety matter. For the limited time required to deliver this work, a legal practitioner will be a key worker…Asking the school to look after your children should be an exceptional step where this is essential in order to keep the wheels of justice turning.’
It is for solicitors to decide themselves if (and when) they are a key worker.
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