Update 1 May 2020: HM Courts & Tribunal Service (HMCTS) met with STEP, the Law Society, SFE and ICAEW this week for its regular Probate Service meeting. The following updates were provided:
- The combined form is timetabled for approximately two weeks’ time and a formal notification will be provided.
- Partners who are Executors are now able to make online applications.
- Trust corporations and others which are currently unable to apply online will be added to the process over the next couple of months.
- HMRC intends to start sending IHT421 forms directly to the Probate Registry within 15 days of issue. A formal notification will follow when this has been implemented.
We have requested an additional meeting in the next ten days to discuss specific form issues with HMCTS and the Probate Registrar. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have issues that you would like to be reported.
HMCTS has also enquired whether firms are struggling to get the original wills to the Probate Registry during remote working. Please do let us know if this is the case.
Original blog: HMCTS has announced some interim operational arrangements that it will be making in light of the COVID-19 restrictions. The key changes will relate to the following areas:
- acceptance of statements of truth in place of affidavits,
- guidance on the signing/witnessing of renunciations and powers of attorney,
- Statutory Instrument 2020 No 33: The Administration of Estates Act 1925 (Fixed Net Sum) Order,
- probate practitioner forms and electronic signatures.
Acceptance of statements of truth in place of affidavits
Statements of truth can be accepted in place of affidavits in the following circumstances:
- identity of executor,
- misrecital of date of will in codicil (if rectification not required under S20 Administration of Justice Act 1982),
- Rule 41 – amendment of grant,
- Rule 41 – revocation of grant,
- Rules 30(1) (a),(b) and (c),
- Rule 35(4),
- Rule 13 (knowledge of content of will),
- Rule 14 (alterations in will),
- Rule 15 (attempted revocation of will).
HMCTS is awaiting further advice in relation to the acceptance of statements of truth for use in applications that specify evidence must be submitted by affidavit.
Guidance on the signing/witnessing of renunciations and powers of attorney
Documents including renunciations and powers of attorney that are required to be signed as a deed before a disinterested witness may be effected in the usual way using any method of signing/witnessing that can be achieved under the safe distancing measures currently specified by the government. HMCTS will not look beyond any document that is submitted that is signed and witnessed in the usual way, including the use of electronic signatures.
Statutory Instrument 2020 No 33: The Administration of Estates Act 1925 (Fixed Net Sum) Order
With effect from 6 February 2020 the fixed net sum for spouses and civil partners of persons who have died after that date without leaving a will has been increased to GBP270,000. If you have been issued with a grant of Letters of Administration since 6 February 2020 and you believe the entitlement to the estate may have been affected by this, you are advised not to administer the estate and, if you are a personal applicant, to seek legal advice.
Probate practitioner forms and electronic signatures
HMCTS has received queries from practitioners in respect of whether the new forms are for use by practitioners and personal applicants. These forms will become a combined form for use by both at the end of the transitional period and will be uploaded as a combined form on the gov.uk website.
For clarity, the links to all the relevant paper forms for probate professional practitioners only to use are:
- Apply for probate where the deceased left a will.
- Apply for probate where the person who has died did not leave a will.
- Apply for a caveat or extension.
You can find where to send your forms at the Directory of probate registries and appointment venues (PA4SOT).
Please note: All forms for practitioner use contain the following statement in the title for probate professional practitioners only. If this statement is not included, the application is only for the use of personal applicants at this stage.
‘HMCTS advises that any new work which is undertaken should now be completed by either using the new paper application forms (electronic signatures including typed signatures will be accepted) or you could alternatively apply online. HMCTS is actively encouraging the use of online applications as this enables us to maintain the service whilst many of our staff are also remote working.’
For further information on how to apply online, please use HMCTS online services for legal professionals.
STEP will continue to keep you apprised of any changes to the service made by HMCTS.