Court reform

Update to the non-contentious probate rules: mandating online professional applications

The government has published its response to the consultation on non-contentious probate: mandating online professional applications.

Read our response to the consultation

The government's response

In summary, the government welcomed the broad support for the concept of the online probate service and noted a number of respondents’ reservations about wholesale mandating of professional user applications at this time.

As a result, the government has decided to:

  • mandate the use of the online service for grants of probate applications by professional users, with a number of exceptions for more specialised applications
  • continue to allow professional user applications for grants of letters of administration to be made via either the online process or the traditional method of applying to a Registry

This is broadly in the line with the views expressed in our consultation response.

The government’s response notes it will follow up with us about the concerns we have highlighted on the rules in relation to cases involving powers of attorney.

These reforms are being introduced by an amendment to the Non-Contentious Probate Rules made by the president of the Family Division and laid in parliament on 30 September 2020. 

Read the Probate Mandation Letter setting out these amendments (PDF 117 KB)

The new rules come into force on 2 November 2020. However, there will be a grace period until 30 November 2020 when paper applications will still be accepted. This is to provide additional time for professional users to sign up for online accounts in readiness for the future submission of grants of probate applications via MyHMCTS.

The new rules on set out a schedule of exemptions from the requirement to use the online process for grants of probate (PDF).

Our view

“In principle, we agree with making online applications compulsory for all professional probate applications,” our president Simon Davis said. "Whilst there are clear benefits to having all professional probate applications online – such as that the online system provides instant feedback – solicitors have also experienced some teething problems with the new system."

"HM Courts and Tribunals Service must ensure that these issues are resolved and the system is fit for purpose before it is fully rolled out and the new rules come into force. Further clarity is also needed on what alternatives will be available if the system experiences difficulties – such as technology issues or if the case is particularly complex or unusual.”

“Any IT system will inevitably experience glitches from time to time and it is important there are fully developed and clearly understood contingency arrangements in place for when such failures occur.”

How to register for the online service

The initial stage is registering for an account with the MyHMCTS platform.

This is used for a range of court jurisdictions so it's possible a company will already have registered an account, even if not currently being used for probate applications.

Guidance will appear on the host page for probate applications on which applications cannot be made online or which can be made either online or by the traditional method.