Increased use of online probate service

We've had another productive probate service user group meeting with:

  • HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS)
  • STEP Society
  • Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales
  • Royal National Institute of Blind People

Extension of grace period

HMCTS has extended the grace period for the use of paper-based probate applications until Monday 11 January 2021.

HMCTS has acknowledged that there are still some issues with the online system and this extension should allow them to resolve these, while allowing more time for practitioners to sign up to the new MyHMCTS online system.

Since the announcement was made that applications are to be submitted online, the number of users that have signed up to the system has doubled and HMCTS has confirmed the number of digital applications received has increased.

Unless an application is exempt from online submission, all paper applications received after 11 January will be returned unissued.

Member insight into issues with the service

Both STEP and SFE recently conducted surveys regarding issues with the probate service.

Particular areas of issue include:

  • the stops on the online cases
  • technical issues with the system
  • lack of coordination between the different forms

This member insight has been shared with HMCTS who are going through the responses in depth to make sure they are putting the right information into their guidance.

HMCTS did confirm that on Monday 14 December a new banner feature was introduced which gives messages and tips when using the online system.

If HMCTS are receiving regular queries, they will use this feature to respond to these and point users in the right direction.

Stops

Stops continue to be an issue and HMCTS are due to publish a blog focusing on how to submit a successful application. This will cover the main reasons for stops, how you can avoid your application falling into one of those categories and reduce the risk of experiencing any issues.

One of the main areas of focus continues to be around the IHT 421 form and HMCTS is working with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to address this.

HMRC recommends that you allow 20 working days from the date you send your IHT400 before applying for your grant.

You need to allow time for HMRC to process the IHT400 before applying for your grant. This means that your IHT421 will be with HMCTS and can be matched to your probate application shortly after you apply.

Caveats

Members have raised queries as to whether there must be an exact match in terms of the information that is entered.

The feedback from our members is that there are variations, for example, in how you can enter address information.

HMCTS have indicated they are looking at this and hope to incorporate a tech change which will aid them in their matching. At the moment, a caveat matches on the name, date of birth and date of death.

The date of birth and date of death have to be accurate for a match to come up. HMCTS has said that there have been a number of instances where this information has been erroneously entered, for example mixing the date of birth with the date of death.

HMCTS are looking at their notification system to make sure that all the information that has been entered into a caveat is matching.

Next steps

Our next meeting will take place at the end of January 2021.

You can send any queries/questions you would like us to raise to hmctscourtreform@lawsociety.org.uk.

HMCTS will shortly issue updated guidance including information on what has changed on the online system, benefits of using it and what’s still to come.

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