Digital Meets Probate

Online Probate application service launches across England & Wales

Finally, the antiquated cogs of HM courts seem to be edging gently towards the 21st Century this month with the launch of a digital service allowing people to apply for a “grant of probate” online.

What is a grant of probate?

Obtaining a “grant of probate” means you have the legal authority to deal with the deceased’s affairs and distribute any Inheritance to their heirs. It is part of the role of The Executor (s) or administrator to make this application.

Obtaining a grant of probate

After registering the death and valuing the deceased’s estate you should be in a position to complete the probate application form. (PA1).

Until now you had to download this form from the HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) website, complete it and take it to your nearest Probate Registry or Solicitors office.

Here you are required to swear an oath called a “statement of truth” that the details you have provided are correct. If you use a solicitor they will charge a small fee for this service.

What happens now?

Now the newly launched digital service allows up to four joint executors to apply, swear the necessary statement of truth and pay the £215 fee (for estates in excess of £5,000) online.

As with a manual application, you will need the original Will of the deceased, as well as the original death certificate.

So in most cases, there should be no need for the applicants to visit a probate registry or solicitor’s office.

Susan Acland-Hood, HMCTS chief executive said: “Making probate simpler and more convenient and removing the need to attend a probate registry and swear an oath in person, helps bereaved people at a very challenging time – those who have tested our new service have told us how much difference it makes. I am delighted we are now able to offer this new, simpler way of doing probate to the public at large. It is part of the work we’re doing to make the justice system easier to navigate for everyone.”

The launch this month follows a beta trial which started in 2017 in which 93% of users expressed their satisfaction with the service.

Currently, the online service cannot be used if the deceased was not a permanent resident in England or Wales or if the applicant does not have the original Will. However, HMCTS say more functionality will be added to the service over time which will include the ability to apply if the deceased didn’t leave a Will.

Probate charges increase.

The new service has been developed as part of HMCTS’ £1bn court reform programme announced by Justice Minister Lucy Frazer in November last year. Part of which will be funded by the proposed hike in probate charges which could see relatives paying as much as £6000 to access the estate of their loved ones.

Probate hikes aside for a moment though, this online service is a welcome addition to the process, alleviating a lot of stress and effort for the bereaved at such a traumatic time.

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