Applying for grants of probate
This guide is for legal professionals and covers:
- probate fees
- online applications – how the service works, where to send supporting evidence
- paper applications
- how to avoid common issues – delayed applications and caveats
- checking progress on your application
- contacting HMCTS
We meet with HMCTS regularly, to raise your concerns and questions.
If you're a member of the public, read our advice on dealing with someone's affairs when they die.
From 26 January 2022, all users of the probate service pay a single, flat rate fee of £273.
The MoJ continues to waive probate fees altogether for estates worth £5,000 and under. We’ve suggested that users should be offered reimbursement for probate delays.
From 2 November 2020, all grants of probate applications (where there's a will) must be made using the online service for professionals: MyHMCTS.
With the online service, you can:
- monitor the stages of your application without needing to phone HMCTS for an update
- receive notifications of any status changes – for instance, if there's been a stop
- share a case if you're on annual leave or changing jobs, by assigning it to someone else in your firm
Check that your firm is not already signed up to MyHMCTS (firms with probate departments may already have accounts); if your firm is using MyHMCTS, request a username and password from your administrator.
If your firm has not signed up, register for the service – your firm needs to nominate an administrator to set the organisation up and manage the account.
From May 2023, professional users can pay by card when submitting applications on MyHMCTS.
Organisations can also continue to use Pay by Accounts (PBA), which are set up by your firm's administrator.
Once registered and confirmed as an administrator for their organisation, MyHMCTS users can invite colleagues to create their own accounts, choosing the type of access required for each person.
From their own login, users can issue new applications, view case details online and take action to progress cases as needed.
Setting up a fee account
To pay for online applications, organisations must have a registered Pay by Account (PBA) account.
Accounts are usually confirmed within three working days – if you have any questions about setting up an account, email MyHMCTSsupport@justice.gov.uk
Send all documents supporting an online application, such as a will, to:
PO Box 12625
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
Attach a cover letter for all evidence
Every piece of evidence that you send to Harlow needs an attached PDF cover letter. These are needed for HMCTS to link documents to online applications.
Cover sheets will be auto-populated with certain information, including the case reference.
The cover sheet should also have a reminder of what documents should be going with it.
If there is no cover letter – even if the case reference number is on the correspondence or document – the evidence will fall into an ‘exceptions queue’, which causes delays.
If you cannot print the PDF, a blank piece of paper with the case reference number on top of the document is fine.
You should wait 16 weeks after HMCTS has received the application before contacting the CTSC (Courts and Tribunals Service Centre). HMCTS will not act on standard applications before this.
Exceptions that require priority action include cases involving:
- house sales (the property was placed on the market before the deceased passed away), or
- court action
We've raised the long wait times in our meetings with HMCTS.
While paper applications are generally more complex than online requests, HMCTS accepts more action is needed to tackle the long waits, which are increasing phone queries.
HMCTS is looking at ways to:
- digitise more of the paper application routes – this work will be carried out throughout 2023
- make uploaded paper applications more visible on the portal
Annotated PA1P and PA1A forms for legal professionals
The PA1P and PA1A forms have been annotated with the registrar’s comments.
The annotated forms, coupled with the updated FAQs, can help you in applying for probate when using the paper forms.
- annotated PA1P form (PDF 1.54 MB)
- annotated PA1A form (PDF 999 KB)
- FAQs – updated February 2021 (PDF 556 KB)
PA17 and PA18 forms
Probate practitioners may also find these supporting forms useful:
- PA17 form – giving up probate executor rights
- PA18 form – find out what form and evidence you need for complex estates
Where to send paper applications
For paper applications in English, professional users should send forms (PA1A and PA1P) to:
Newcastle District Probate Registry
2nd Floor, Kings Court
Earl Grey Way
For bilingual / Welsh language applications, send paper applications to:
Probate Registry of Wales
3rd Floor, Cardiff Magistrates Court
You should only send solicitor paper applications that cannot follow the online journey to Newcastle or Cardiff.
How you can help reduce 'stops'
For probate practitioners, common reasons for stopped applications include:
- inheritance tax (IHT) – most common cause of delay for professional users
- will’s physical condition – unexplained alterations or damage
- executor not being accounted for – are any executors pre-deceased?
- extra documents are needed and reminders have to be sent out
- content of the will, for example if it’s not been signed
If IHT needs to be paid, you should:
- Send the IHT400 and IHT421 forms to HMRC
HMRC will complete and send the IHT421 form directly to HMCTS. You’ll receive a confirmation receipt once it’s been issued within 20 working days
- Wait 20 working days before applying for the grant through MyHMCTS
This means that HMCTS will have received your IHT421 form and can match it to your probate application quickly
When you apply:
- you’ll be asked to enter the IHT form submission date
- you will not be able to submit your application if you have not waited 20 days
- do not alter the submission date hoping this will speed up the time to deal with your application
If you alter the submission date, or do not wait 20 working days, your application is very likely to be stopped, causing delays and using up HMCTS staff resource.
Wills are legal documents and damage, no matter how small, must be noted on MyHMCTS.
When applying for probate, if the will or codicil appears to have been changed or damaged, use the notes field on MyHMCTS to give an upfront explanation of what has happened.
This will help avoid unnecessary delays to your application.
Common types of damage include:
- unexplained staple or punch holes
- water damage
- removed pages
From January 2022, more estates are exempt from the requirement to submit detailed estate returns in order to obtain probate.
Practitioners should provide HMRC the same information that’s collected on the IHT 205 form.
For both digital and paper applications, you’ll need to provide:
- the usual gross and net figures for probate
- a gross and net figure for inheritance tax purposes
When you enter a date of death after 1 January 2022 in a digital application, the system will generate extra questions.
If you’re having trouble with 'ad colligenda bona' applications, email HMCTS with the subject line “URGENT AD COLLIGENDA BONA” and include:
- case number
- deceased details
- where you have sent the application (paper applications submitted to the Newcastle Registry)
HMCTS will call you/the applicant to confirm receipt of the email and application and advise on next steps, including any other information needed.
This will normally be within 48 hours of receiving and validating the application.
You can challenge a probate application (enter a caveat) online or by post. A caveat lasts for six months at first.
If you need to extend a caveat for another six months, you'll need to post a PA8B form to Harlow:
PO Box 12625
Posting the form is the best way to make sure HMCTS applies the extension.
Do not request an extension by letter or email, as this could risk delay.
If an extension has been missed, HMCTS’s safeguard period will prevent probate from being granted. When HMCTS uploads a delayed extension, it'll trigger the notification as though it's a new caveat.
You can check the status of your applications at any time using the MyHMCTS dashboard.
Before contacting HMCTS directly to check application progress, you should wait 16 weeks for either paper or online applications.
From April 2023, for paper applications, HMCTS will send an email notification when the will and supporting papers have been received. This means you'll no longer need to call the service centre to enquire about receipt.
How long it takes to process an application
In March 2023, HMCTS:
- received 27,953 applications
- issued 26,637 grants of probate
From document receipt to grant issued, digital applications took:
- 3.1 weeks without stops
- 15.4 weeks when stopped
Paper applications took:
- 16.4 weeks without stops
- 29.3 weeks when stopped
We continue to raise member concerns about delays to the probate service.
To reduce the current backlogs, HMCTS has recruited 100 new staff and given extra training to existing staff.
HMCTS is focusing on getting the system back into a balanced position where applications will be dealt with in date order.
It hopes to have cleared the oldest and most complex applications by the end of May 2023.
HMCTS phone lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. (Closed on Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays.)
HMCTS has reduced its call wait times to under 15 minutes on average.
Monday is the busiest day and Friday is the quietest.
Quieter periods are usually from Tuesday to Thursday, between 9am to 10am and 4pm to 5pm. (This is subject to demand and resource availability.)
If you have other queries or concerns about the probate service that you’d like us to raise with HMCTS, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This guide has been developed from updates from the probate service user group, which includes:
- The Law Society
- HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS)
- STEP Society (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners)
- Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales
- Institute of Legacy Management
I want to know more
See our research findings on how the probate portal and other online services are impacting the delivery of justice.