Belonging to a supportive organisation like STEP come into its own in such difficult times

Denese MolyneuxWhen writing this blog, usually the first thing I do is to refer to my previous one I posted to comment or update England and Wales members on items mentioned. Not this time.

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone, whether they have contracted the virus or not. It is in such circumstances that the benefits of being a member of a supportive organisation really come into their own.

Mark Walley and the team at STEP Head Office are to be congratulated on keeping things on an even keel throughout this period of immense upheaval. While managing the logistics of moving to home working, the staff have pulled together resources to help members keep fully updated, starting with the COVID-19 Technical Hub on the STEP website. After that there are any number of links to new information, from holding virtual meetings; changes to examinations; rescheduled conferences; maintaining CPD and just about any other subject of relevance. The Communications team has excelled itself in managing the STEP online offering to best support the membership.

Life goes on and in other non-COVID news, The All Party Parliamentary Group for Inheritance Tax and Intergenerational Fairness was launched on 28 January to positive media coverage. STEP’s involvement with this initiative has served to enhance our reputation and strengthened stakeholder relationships in this vital area.

The Legal Services Board is currently reviewing how to ensure that legal professionals remain competent throughout their careers. The call for evidence deadline has been extended to 26 June, and STEP will be making a submission to that review.

HMRC is keen to raise standards in the tax advice market and has called for evidence to support the UK Government’s crackdown on promoters of tax avoidance schemes. It is also conducting a review to give taxpayers assurance that advice received from professionals is reliable. Again STEP will be giving a response.

As we emerge from the unusual circumstances in which we find ourselves it will be interesting to see which parts of our lives revert to existence pre-COVID. By the time of my next blog in December, I hope we will have had the England and Wales Branch Chairs Assembly – maybe via video conference. I look forward to hearing your own experiences and sharing some new, and quite probably unforeseen, best practice.

 

Denese Molyneux TEP, Chair, STEP England and Wales Regional Committee

HMCTS announces interim operational arrangements

emily-deane-tep-2018-v2Update 25 August 2020: HM Courts & Tribunal Service (HMCTS) has provided some further guidance in relation to submitting England and Wales probate applications in the correct format:

  1. If you have lodged an application through the online portal using your registered account you do not need to send any application forms, when you send in the will and other supporting documents. If you send either of the application forms, PA1P or PA1A, this will delay your application. Please only send in the supporting documents requested on the summary page.
  2. Form PA13 is only for use by personal applicants and not to be used by legal professionals. Please lodge the usual lost will affidavit and supporting exhibits. Changes are being made to GOV.UK and form PA13 to show only for use by personal applicants. Using form PA13 will delay your application if you have not provided an affidavit.

More information on on how to apply online is provided here: www.gov.uk/guidance/hmcts-online-services-for-legal-professionals.

Update 11 June 2020: HMCTS has published the attached FAQ document (pdf) for professional users of the Probate Service to support professionals with online applications. HMCRS has confirmed that this is a working document which it intends to continually update as the process continues to evolve.

If you have any feedback on the FAQs please send your comments to policy@org.uk.

Update 1 May 2020: 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 policy@step.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:

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.

Emily Deane TEP, STEP Technical Counsel