On 9 October 2020, HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) sent an open letter to probate practitioners informing them that from 2 November probate applications must be made online by them.
This was as a result of consultation earlier in the year whereby HMCTS was looking to speed up the modernisation of the probate application process and also, they say, save £20m over the next ten years by closing most of the district probate registries. A statutory Instrument 2020 No 1059, the Non-Contentious Probate (Amendment) Rules 2020 was laid before parliament on 30 September 2020 and makes the changes required to mandate these online applications from 2 November 2020.
Much has been made of the teething problems of this online system with wait times for grants moving into months rather than weeks. COVID-19 must be partly to blame for this with HMCTS staff working remotely etc. however we have heard reports of the system randomly throwing people out and other technical issues. HMCTS have said that these issues will be resolved by the time the mandatory online application process is in place. It doesn’t give them a lot of time! We shall see how this pans out.
The fact remains however, that from 2 November probate practitioners will have to apply online for grants of probate. Currently around a third of practitioner applications are made online, HMCTS estimate that this will increase to three quarters. There is a bit of leeway in that there is a period of grace until 30 November where paper applications can be made to enable practitioners to get set up on the MyHMCTS platform. There are also some exceptions to this blanket rule for more complex situations and for administration cases.
The list of exemptions includes:
- A grant of administration including a grant with will annexed (there will be the choice between paper and online if eligible)
- A second grant of probate in respect of the same estate
- A grant in respect of a foreign will
- A grant accompanied by an application to prove a will
- Application for a grant ad colligenda bona under Rule 52
The full list of exemptions can be found here at the end of the letter from HMCTS.
Are you set-up and ready for this?
Your firm will need to register for an account with MyHMCTS platform. This will enable the electronic payment of fees and allow you to manage and monitor your online applications. HMCTS have issued detailed guidance on the process including:
There are also helpline addresses
Our probate manual will be updated to reflect these changes.