Online probate applications update – Oct 2019

Rita Bhargava TEPHM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) recently organised a focus group, attended by practitioners from across the industry and representatives of various professional bodies, as part of its ongoing changes to the rules and processes around probate applications in England and Wales.

As Deputy Chair of STEP’s England and Wales Regional Committee, I attended the meeting on behalf of STEP.

As part of the meeting, representatives of HMCTS confirmed that the new online probate application process was scheduled to go live today, 1 October 2019. At present the system will be unavailable for more complicated applications, for example where the deceased was domiciled outside the UK or where an executor has lost capacity.

Practitioners who do use the online system will benefit from increased transparency around the status of their application; with a dashboard function tracking the progress of an application and showing which stages it has completed.

During the meeting a number of other key points were raised that practitioners may find of interest:

  • All law firms will have to apply to use the new online service, with applications being approved by HMCTS.
  • Practitioners will still be able to make paper applications. There will not be a specific time advantage to using one method over the other, as both paper and online applications will be progressed under the same timeframes.
  • HMCTS representatives have provided the reassurance that as part of the new system the original will is still going be ‘forensically’ checked by two officials.
  • When an application is made for a grant, a sealed copy of the will won’t be provided unless specifically requested. This will incur an additional charge.
  • All paper applications must now be sent via recorded delivery.

STEP will continue to monitor the changes to the Probate Service (as well as the ongoing situation around probate fees), and will provide further updates where appropriate.

Rita Bhargava TEP is deputy chair of STEP’s England and Wales Regional Committee

6 thoughts on “Online probate applications update – Oct 2019

  1. 14.10.19 I’ve just been told by the probate helpline (0300 303 0648) that the system has not gone live for professionals yet, it’s delayed. Does anyone have an official update on this?

  2. I have managed to register with HM Courts & Tribunals registrations under the title ‘Register to manage civil and family law cases’ and they sent a link to which I set up a password. When I have tried to subsequently go online at Gov.uk to complete an inheritance tax estate report, once I choose the option ‘I am a professional and I am reporting the value of an estate for an executor’ I then get the message
    ‘ There is no change to how agents report estate values to HMRC. You must continue to use either IHT205 or IHT400 paper form’

    I was under the impression that the form filling would be online as with personal applications?

  3. (A query from a non-UK practitioner lobbying for his own jurisdiction’s Probate Registry to adopt an electronic probate filing system.) How is the will dealt with in a UK non-contentious electronic probate application filing? In Western Australia the question of how to deal with the will is the only issue preventing the Registry moving to an electronic non-contentious probate application filing system. There are of course good reasons why the will is physically lodged under the current paper system: so that it can be checked for issues such as whether it bears the marks of the apparent removal of a former attachment and whether it is actually an original and not a copy – none of which can be done as efficiently (or at all) if a scanned copy only is lodged.

  4. The original Will still has to be sent off to the Probate Registry (I’m advised that the UK has one central Registry dealing with the online applications being Harlow Probate Registry)

    I have not actually tested the system yet as I have had problems with the online system

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