HM 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.