Online probate service becomes mandatory

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

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

Our discussion focused on the move to the online probate service, probate service performance and the announcement of the second national lockdown.

Move to the online probate service

From 2 November 2020, all grants of probate applications (where there's a will) must be made using the online service for professionals – MyHMCTS.

To help you prepare for this transition, there will be a grace period until Monday 30 November. Paper applications will still be accepted during this time.

When the grace period ends, all applications (except those that are exempt) must be submitted online. Paper applications submitted after this date will be returned.

We encourage all who have not yet signed up to the online service to do so in good time.

We also advise that you do not attempt to push through a large number of paper applications before the end of the grace period, as this will inevitably create a spike in demand and lead to increased waiting times.

HMCTS has acknowledged the issues we raised in our consultation response regarding the service becoming mandatory, including being able to see cases from start to finish. It's making improvements to address these, such as:

  • making the service more visual and easier to track applications
  • improving notifications, making sure these are timely and include the right information

HMCTS has asked for you to continue sending through your feedback on the online service, as this is being used to make improvements and to produce updated guidance to help members with the transition.

Email your feedback to probatefeedback@justice.gov.uk.

Probate service performance

In terms of performance, HMCTS states this is good given the current climate.

The online service should reduce the likelihood of delays/backlogs. If digital applications are correctly completed and all necessary documents are supplied, applications are now being issued at a very quick rate.

HMCTS confirmed it's still picking up a number of stops.

Every application that cannot be issued due to missing documents or errors means HMCTS must use all the same resource it would take to issue an application, including contacting the applicant and dealing with the correction before attempting to issue again.

Outputs could be increased considerably if it can reduce the level of stops. The user group will work with HMCTS in producing guidance on this area, which we hope will be issued shortly.

HMCTS have assured us that it's improving on call handling performance, but indicates that there's a balance to strike between staff dealing with phone queries and those dealing with getting grants issued.

To assist with managing expectations, we would like to remind members not to contact HMCTS if applications are less than eight weeks old. HMCTS will not be able to provide updates for these as it's concentrating on getting more grants issued more quickly.

More staff continue to be trained and are expected to be ready to assist with the service by the end of November.

HMCTS has a new team of trainee legal advisers and has put a training programme in place to help get them up to speed. Some trainees are still subject to quality checks, but the expectation is that this will boost outputs in late November.

Announcement of second lockdown

In response to the announcement of the second national lockdown, HMCTS states there will be no real change to the delivery of service, and it's essentially business as usual.

The only potential impact would be the risk of higher levels of staff sickness absence.

Staff in the Courts and Tribunals Service Centre (CTSC) continue to work remotely. although there are some staff members in the CTSC remaining in line with safety/social distancing measures.

Get involved

Our next user group meeting will be in December.

If you have any concerns you’d like us to raise at the next meeting, email hmctscourtreform@lawsociety.org.uk.

Resources

List of confirmed exemptions

MyHMCTS – online case management for legal professionals

Updated guidance on the probate service

Maximise your Law Society membership with My LS