Probate service update – April 2021

We met with HM Courts and Tribunals Service to talk about the probate service for professional users, including timelines, stopped applications and upcoming changes

Man filling in paper form

We continue to have productive discussions at our probate service professional 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
  • Institute of Legacy Management
  • Royal National Institute of Blind People
  • Remember a Charity (RAC)

Probate service data

HMCTS now publishes monthly management information (MI) on workload and timeliness for the part of the probate service that delivers grants of probate.

The MI for February 2021 highlights:

  • how many digital and paper submissions have been received
  • how many of these submissions have been stopped
  • timeliness measures, such as the number of weeks to complete an application

The data shows that the average time for a digital case to be issued is:

  • less than a week if there’s nothing wrong and there are no stops
  • eight weeks if the case is stopped – for example, if it does not have its inheritance tax (IHT) form

For the paper route, it’s taking about:

  • four weeks with no stops
  • 16 weeks if a case is stopped

View the data for February 2021

‘Stops’ issues: inheritance tax forms

HMCTS states that the biggest stop for legal professionals is the IHT form not being ready or attached when the application is made.

In March, the system was updated to prevent users from submitting applications on MyHMCTS until 20 working days after they submit form IHT400.

HMCTS states that this will ensure the IHT421 is available when it processes applications, which will result in fewer cases being stopped and delayed.

There were some issues with this change, as the system went from asking users to wait to submit an application (but not preventing them from applying), to not allowing users to submit until the 20 days had passed.

HMCTS has said it will look at how to improve its communications on significant changes like this to ensure users are prepared.

Communicating progress to service users

As it’s important for our members to understand why certain cases may be delayed and explain this to clients, the user group asked HMCTS what steps it’s taking to communicate progress.

  1. Members can now refer to the monthly MI for data on workload/timeliness.
  2. HMCTS has communications scheduled over the coming weeks focusing on ‘stops’ including top tips on:
    • common reasons for stops
    • why HMCTS must make stops
    It will also be conducting a multi-week social media campaign on twitter and LinkedIn.
  3. As HMCTS receives more work digitally, it can focus on proactively chasing cases that have been stopped for a considerable amount of time. HMCTS is contacting people where probate is still outstanding due to certain documents not being sent. This is not intended to be a long-term practice and HMCTS will close cases in which no response is received.
  4. HMCTS is also looking at expanding the options available on the digital service, resulting in less paper.

Upcoming changes

Deleting unsubmitted cases

Legal practitioners have raised this as an issue and HMCTS is aiming for this function to be available by the end of May.

Online applications from trust corporations

HMCTS aims for this to be possible by the end of May/early June.

Stakeholders named in the will

HMCTS is making improvements to make it easier to apply where the following stakeholders in a firm/successor firm are named in the will:

  • partners
  • members
  • shareholders
  • directors

This will allow probate practitioners to sign the PDF legal statement on behalf of their clients for every application submitted via MyHMCTS.

This will be included in the trust corporations release at the end of May.

Applying by post: PA1A, PA1P and PA8A forms

New versions of the following forms are under final review with the registrars and content designers:

These forms will be for use by both personal applicants and probate practitioners.

HMCTS aims for these to be released by the end of June/early July.

Where to send documents

Professional users should send paper application forms in English (PA1A and PA1P) to the Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Probate Registry.

Send bilingual applications to the Cardiff Probate Registry of Wales.

Send documents supporting an online application, such as a will, to:

HMCTS Probate
PO Box 12625
Harlow
CM20 9QE

Do not send completed paper forms alongside supporting documents for an online application. The automated bulk-scanning process reads this paper form as a separate application, which:

  • creates a duplicate case
  • deducts an extra fee from the linked account
  • delays the online application while HMCTS identifies and refunds duplicate cases

Access codes

Some service users are waiting inordinate amounts of time to receive access codes.

HMCTS states that this should not be the case and codes should be sent immediately on request. It believes some users may be impacted due to firms’ internal firewall settings. It recommends contacting your IT team/supplier to resolve this, but if this is not possible, you should contact HMCTS.

Email: hm.courts.and.tribunals.registrations@notifications.service.gov.uk

Next steps

We intend to have our next meeting at the end of May.

If you’d like us to raise an issue with HMCTS, email us.

Email: hmctscourtreform@lawsociety.org.uk

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