Court reform

Further uptake in online probate service

We had another helpful and constructive meeting with HM Court and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) to review the probate service.

HMCTS reiterated that the service is not experiencing delays but indicated that recent articles suggesting this is the case drives people to contact HMCTS, which can place the service under unnecessary pressure.


The HMCTS weekly management information table provides statistics on the probate workload, showing what’s gone in and what’s gone out.

More staff have been brought in to prepare for any increase in workload that might arise but, depending on how much extra work comes in, there may be extra pressure on processing times for a short period.

Probate staff continue to work remotely, meaning there are still restrictions on work practices.

When lockdown formally ends there will be a natural uplift in terms of speed, but at the moment it is business as usual and coping with the impact of COVID-19 as best as possible.

Turnaround times

Digital applications are being addressed chronologically and so should be seeing them come out in day order.

As paper applications need to move around the country, these might take longer due to some variances between registries. HMCTS is working from the oldest cases first and are currently working on monitoring dates.

There has been good compliance in solicitors switching to paper forms from statement of truths.

The annotated probate forms and FAQs can help you in applying for probate when using the paper forms. You can also view all the probate forms.

Uptake in the digital service has been increasing week on week since May and we continue to encourage members to register for the online probate service.

Going forward

HMCTS has stated that trust corporations are the next priority and it's hoping to address this in August.

It's also looking at their messaging with regards to when people should be contacting them about an application.

HMCTS would like to limit the numbers of those who contact if possible, as this should assist with the processing times.

Digital service users will receive a notification that their application has been received

It's advised that you do not apply for grants until 15 days after sending the forms to HMRC.

We would also remind members of the fee reductions for caveats.

At the House of Lords questions on 27 July 2020, Baroness Ludford asked what assessment the government have made of the operation and resourcing of the probate service; and what plans they have to remedy any issues identified. Read the responses.

See also recent responses regarding the probate service which were submitted as written questions to government ministers.

As always, we continue to look at ways to assist members undertaking work within the probate service.

We're liaising with HMCTS about conducting a webinar regarding the online service and the new forms. We'll also be looking at producing an article that focuses on stops for paper/digital applications.

In the meantime, members of our Private Client Section can view the recent online probate applications webinar and download a copy of the slides.

We'll be meeting again with HMCTS and the other professional bodies at the beginning of September.

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