In October 2019, HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) announced it's rolling out a national pilot that will enable legal professionals to access the online probate service.
HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) trialled an online probate service in 2017 for personal applicants and pre-selected solicitors.
In January 2019 HMCTS launched the online service.
The probate service usually processes probate applications within 10 working days. However, some applications are facing delays of six to eight weeks.
These delays are being caused by:
- an increase in applications since the proposed probate fees increase was announced
- IT problems linked to the online probate applications process
- the need to train new staff and the time required for them to understand the new system
Probate fees increase
In 2018 the Ministry of Justice announced its proposal to increase probate fees. The proposal means that:
- probate fees would increase from £215, or £155 if done by a solicitor, to a sliding scale ranging from £250 to £6,000 depending on the value of the estate
- if the estate is worth less than £50,000 probate fees would not have to be paid
We strongly oppose the probate fees increase. In February 2019, we urged MPs to object to the Non-Contentious Probate (Fees) Order 2018 and vote against approving it.
- the dramatic increase in fees amounts to a stealth tax and is a misuse of the Lord Chancellor’s fee-levying power
- the fee increase is disproportionate and excessive compared to the current fees of £215
- it's unfair to expect the bereaved to fund or subsidise other parts of the courts and tribunals service, particularly if they have no other option but to use the probate service
What this means for solicitors
The proposed changes to the probate system mean that:
- you may have to wait significantly longer than expected for a grant of probate to be issued
- the current flat fee rate may be changing to a sliding scale depending on the value of the estate
What we’re doing
- October 2019 – the government confirmed that it will scrap its probate fees proposals following our successful campaign
- September 2019 – the probate fees vote lapses following our successful campaign and we met with HMCTS for an update on the delays to the probate system
- August 2019 – HMCTS introduced digital amendments to grants, known as re-issued grants
- July 2019 – HMCTS hosted an event on probate reform
- June 2019 – we met with HMCTS to discuss what it’s been doing to fix the delays to the probate service
- Our public affairs team briefed the House of Lords before a session on probate delays. Baroness Browning asked what the government’s doing to reduce delays in probate being granted to non-professional claimants. Baroness Browning referred to the Law Society during the session
- May 2019 – we challenged HMCTS on delays to the probate service
- March 2019 – HMCTS started issuing a new style of grant of probate certificates
- February 2019 – we asked members to write to their MP about the proposed raise in probate fees
- We urged MPs to object to the Non-Contentious Probate (Fees) Order 2018 and vote against approving it
- December 2018 – we asked members of the House of Lords to support amendments and decline or regret the Non-Contentious Probate (Fees) Order
- The House of Lords passed a motion to put on record its regret that the proposed probate fees increase is greater than the cost of the service