Solicitors to test online probate service

It has recently been revealed that solicitors will soon be invited to join the initial testing phase for online probate.

According to reports from Solicitors Journal, the private beta testing of the online probate form began in June, being used on simple cases.

On 30 August, this was opened to personal applicants, with the public beta stage still scheduled for early 2018.

The new approach will mean that the current PA1 application form will change. At present, the new service can only be used where a single executor has applied, and the original will – free of codicils – must be available.

In addition, the permanent residence of the deceased must be in England or Wales or they had intended to return there on a permanent basis.

Whilst these are the necessary criteria, not everyone who meets them will be accepted to test the service.

In order to take part, interested applicants are to contact HMRC who will conduct an assessment on their suitability to take part.

As well as enabling users to make a probate payment online, the new application removes the need to swear an oath in person by including a digital statement of truth. Applicants also have the ability to save the form and return to it later, meaning that it doesn’t have to be completed in one go.

However, supporting documents are still required when completing an application online.

Whilst only simple cases can be dealt with at present, the project team aim to make the service available in more complex cases going forward.

Whilst the advantages of the service have been praised, many professionals have also highlighted the risks of applications being made online.

There are concerns over establishing the legitimacy of an application, and the vulnerability of elderly applicants who could be taken advantage of by fraudsters.

In order to ensure that those applying have the authority to do so, there have been calls for robust safeguards to be put in place prior to the system’s launch.

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