MOJ To Press Ahead With Closure Of Probate Registries

In the continuing £1bn reform of the courts and tribunals system, the Ministry of Justice is set to close regional probate registries.

It was reported last week that some staff at the ten registries in England and Wales have been told that operations will be scaled back and eventually closed.

The plan is to move all probate services to the centralised Courts and Tribunals Service Centre in Birmingham and a second administrative site. Ten members of staff at the Birmingham Probate Registry have been told their jobs may be affected.

The proposed closures come as parliament considers introducing a new structured system of payment for probate fees, with estates of £2m or more potentially facing a charge of £6,000 instead of the existing £155. Estates of under £50,000 would not face any fee, however, it is hoped to raise additional income of £145m the next financial year with the suggested banding, drawing allegations of stealth taxation of the bereaved, who will have no option but to pay the fee.

Consumer affairs advocates are likely to be concerned at the loss of a personal service in an area where trust and sensitivity are essential. Those who attempt to deal with probate themselves after the death of a loved one will lose the option of dealing with a local office and will have to navigate the impersonal centralised system to obtain their grant.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service state that no staff has been put on notice of redundancy and that the department is ‘working hard to ensure it stays that way’.

The statement concluded:

“Courts and Tribunals Service Centres are a key part of our £1 billion Reform Programme and will ensure we deliver better services for all court users. As we move work to the first two CTSCs, staff in existing centres will need to be moved into new roles. These changes will be gradual and our priority is to support employees throughout the process and help them find suitable, alternative roles.”

A year ago the judiciary revealed that the Courts and Tribunals Service is to reduce staff numbers from 16,500 to a little over 10,000 by 2022 during the proposed modernisation of the justice system.

As a private client professional, how will this impact on the probate process? Do you think customers will notice a difference when district probate registries close?

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