- My LS
In September 2020, following a consultation on mandating online probate, HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) 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
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.
The new rules came into force on 2 November 2020. However, there will be a grace period until 30 November 2020 when paper applications will still be accepted.
In October 2019, HMCTS announced it's rolling out a national pilot that will enable legal professionals to access the online probate service.
HMCTS trialled an online probate service in 2017 for personal applicants and pre-selected solicitors.
In January 2019 HMCTS launched the online service.
In our last meeting, HMCTS said it was anticipating a rise in probate applications based on a forecast of what receipts would be, and was putting resources in place to address this. Although the volume of applications has gone up, on average it has not risen to the level anticipated. It has been a smoother increase, and HMCTS feels that its resources have matched this closely.
It can confirm its capacity is increasing week on week. The average number of grants issued per week during August 2020 was around 5,700, an increase of 500 per week on pre-COVID levels. The majority of personal applications are coming through digitally and whilst practitioner levels have increased, HMCTS is still encouraging legal professionals to submit applications digitally, where possible.
Inheritance tax (IHT) queries still remain the highest proportion of stops both on paper and digitally. HMCTS cannot progress without the IHT so asks to either wait until practitioners have it back or stagger sending to HMCTS until the recommended processing time of HMRC (currently 14 days) has passed.
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
- November 2020 – the new Non-Contentious Probate Rules come into force, mandating the use of the online service for grants of probate applications by professional users, with a number of exceptions for more specialised applications
- September 2020 – the government published its response to the consultation on non-contention probate: mandation online professional applications
- 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