The Law Society updated its members on the current state of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service´s probate service this month (February 2020), relating that HMCTS says the service is in a “good place performance wise”.

Professional applications are being returned within two weeks, and the Welsh service has also been launched. This includes the roll out of bilingual new style Welsh grants.

The Law Society sees this as promising but its members are still encountering issues such as needing to wait significant times for grants and experiencing delays in releasing money from estates to the heirs, which in turn impacts on property transactions.

Grants with errors in them

Its members have also reported receiving grants with errors in them and that emails and phone calls to the service centre are not answered. The Society has been told these are operational issues which will be raised with HMCTS´s national services director.

The online probate service was launched in October 2019 and since then more than 1,000 firms have registered to use the service. However, HMCTS has not seen a significant increase in the number of digital applications and is looking at ways to help users manage their expectations of what the service can do.

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One change is that those appointed as professional executors in the will can now use the online system to apply for grants of probate, whereas previously only named persons were permitted to apply.

Public offices now closed

As the probate service is now a digitally enabled one, the probate sub registries and public offices in various English and Welsh locations are now closed, including the ones in Chester, Lancaster, Carlisle, Stoke on Trent, Nottingham, Lincoln, York, Middlesbrough, Peterborough, Exeter, Gloucester, Leicester, Caernarvon, Carmarthen, Sheffield, Maidstone, Norwich and Bodmin.

HMCTS has stated that these closures will have no effect on the time it takes to obtain grants of probate. Probate requests will now be handled by the Courts and Tribunals Service Centres.

The settling service goes to the Newcastle District Probate Registry. The probate service will only check the validity of a will, correct title and clearing and not standard clauses. Nor will it proofread a statement of truth.

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