Probate service update February 2021

HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has circulated an update on recent changes to the digital probate service and further changes that are coming.

Duplicate cases

HMCTS has identified that some probate practitioners, when lodging an application online via MyHMCTS, also complete and submit a paper (PA1A/PA1P) form alongside supporting documents for an online application.

The automated bulk scanning process reads this paper form as a separate application. This creates a duplicate case and results in a further fee deduction from the linked PBA account. This delays an online application whilst HMCTS work to identify and refund these duplicate cases.

The online form is the equivalent of a paper form. You do not need to send a separate paper application if you've made the application online via MyHMCTS.

Recent changes

PA17 and PA18 forms

HMCTS has created two supporting forms of direct interest to probate practitioners:

  • PA17 form – renunciation form for partners/members/shareholders/directors in a firm giving up their right as an executor
  • PA18 form – pre-lodgement form for complex enquiries

Digital intestacy journey

HMCTS released an enhancement to the digital intestacy journey. This fixed an issue where applicant spouses and civil partners were blocked from applying if they indicated they had siblings. It also improved the usability of these pages.

Deceased details

HMCTS received a lot of feedback from users stating that the question ‘please state the grounds for making this application and information in support’ in the ‘deceased details’ section of the online service was unclear.

After liaising with users to look at alternatives, the question has been altered to read ‘Please state the title and clearing for making the application, limitations and any information in support’.

See section 2.3.1 of the apply for probate with MyHMCTS guidance.

State filter

Users also stated that when they logged into the online system, they wanted to be able to see all of their cases without having to manually change the ‘state’ filter (on the left-hand side of the screen) to ‘Any’.

This has been amended so that upon logging into MyHMCTS, the default ‘state’ filter is set to ‘any’ automatically.

Upcoming changes

Case progress dashboard

HMCTS is aware that being able to update clients on the progress of a case is a necessity for all probate practitioners and that currently, some users are finding that difficult.

It will shortly release a new 'case progress' tab to the MyHMCTS dashboard. This will help users better manage and track the progress of ongoing cases and make the process of amending an application clearer and more intuitive.

Alignment with HMRC

HMCTS plans to update their digital system so the HMCTS and HMRC systems are more aligned by asking users to wait 20 working days after submitting their IHT400 to HMRC before submitting their application to HMCTS.

This will ensure that the IHT421 is available when HMCTS process the application, which will result in fewer cases being stopped and delayed as a result of the IHT421 being unavailable.

Further work continues on streamlining and improving the way information is shared between the two agencies.

Deleting unsubmitted cases

HMCTS is looking to give probate practitioners the ability to delete unsubmitted cases as a result of your feedback and hope to introduce this functionality later in the year.

Applications from trust corporations

HMCTS is aware that trust corporations would like to be able to submit applications via the online system.

HMCTS plans to release a major update in spring 2021 that will make this possible.

Stakeholders named in wills

HMCTS is also aware that improvements are required to make it easier to apply where partners/members/shareholders/directors in a firm/successor firm are named in the will.

This functionality will be improved on and included in the release allowing applications from trust corporations.

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

PA1A, PA1P and PA8A forms

In late spring 2021, HMCTS hopes to introduce new versions of the PA1A, PA1P and the PA8A.

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

All user feedback that has been received since their release in March 2020 has been considered and incorporated in these versions.

HMCTS will give a further update when this change is imminent.

Sharing cases within a firm

HMCTS is aware that probate practitioners need the ability to share cases with other members of their firm, company or corporation and they hope to release this functionality by late spring 2021.

Where to go for help

As each change is released, the apply for probate with MyHMCTS guidance will be updated. This guidance offers advice on the entire end-to-end online journey, so check it regularly for updates.

Download the myHMCTS FAQ (PDF 336 KB)

The FAQ is up to date as of 26 February 2021. HMCTS intends to move away from the FAQ and address any regular queries in the main guidance or by improving the on-screen guidance and/or amending the process to make it clearer for users.

For assistance registering for the online service, see the MyHMCTS page guidance online

Paper forms can be found at probate forms and guidance and further guidance on what must, what can and what cannot be applied for online can be found at Probate Paper Applications for Legal Professionals

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