Court reform

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

The proposals

The Ministry of Justice and HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) consulted on proposals to change 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
  • these changes will not 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 users' ability to complete their work efficiently.

We believe that there needs to be clarification on

  • how the Non-Contentious Probate Rules 1987 (NCPR) will interact with a fully online system
  • 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.

Read the consultation and the government's response on the GOV.UK website

We'll be continuing to host the Probate User Group meetings with HMCTS and other legal professional bodies to keep the probate service under review.

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