Non-contentious probate: mandating online professional applications – Law Society response

The proposals

We’ve responded to the Ministry of Justice’s consultation on the mandating of online probate applications.

The government and HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) propose changing the non-contentious probate rules to make it mandatory for professional users (solicitors and other probate practitioners) to use the online process.

Our view

We agree in principle with mandating online professional applications; however, the system must be fit for purpose before this is fully rolled out and should not be made compulsory until all issues have been resolved.

Practitioners will want to have assurance that the online systems work and are fully tested before mandating their use; the service levels will not decline; and that these changes won’t lead to excessive changes to fees.

HMCTS must state what alternative options will be available should the system experience difficulties, such as technology issues or if a practitioner can show that the online system cannot cope with a particular aspect of the application.

If there are any system failures or problems with specific parts of the application process, users will not be able to complete or submit applications.

This will not only impact clients but also the user’s ability to complete their work efficiently.

We believe there needs to be clarification as to how the Non-Contentious Probate Rules [1987] (NCPR) will interact with a fully online system and if an updated version of the NCPR will be produced in light of recent changes to the online system and as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Next steps

The consultation closed on 10 September 2020.

A summary of the responses will be available by 28 September 2020 on the GOV.UK website.

We will be continuing to host the Probate User Group meetings with HMCTS and other legal professional bodies to keep the probate service under review. Our next meeting is scheduled to take place on 22 September 2020.