Probate application guide aimed at reducing errors

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HM Courts and Tribunals Services (HMCTS) has published a guide to help practitioners reduce potential errors when submitting their probate applications online, Today’s Wills and Probate website reports.

According to the HMCTS, on average more than 35 percent of applications for probate are rejected by the service because they are missing documentation or data. Because of these errors, cases are delayed, and this causes “understandable frustration to applicants and users due to the delay it causes to your application and the process of stopping and then revisiting an application causes significant resource implications for the HMCTS”.

The service is keen to stress that getting the application right first time reduces the delay and double handling, making the process quicker and more efficient for everyone.

Investigating the process

HMCTS has been working with the Law Society, CILEX and the Solicitors for the Elderly to investigate the process and find out why it is taking so long in some cases.

In a separate story, Today’s Wills and Probate also reported on recent criticism of the probate service from Conservative MP, John Stephenson, who spoke at a Westminster Hall debate. Mr Stevenson said the probate service was overwhelmed with more delays and errors that it was two years ago, despite the bigger budget and more members of staff.

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He said the quality had gone downhill ever since district registries were centralised, and paper applications replaced by the digital system. A solicitor himself, Mr Stephenson spoke about waiting up to 17 weeks for a grant of probate, and that practitioners could spent up to 50 minutes on the phone waiting for a reply to a probate enquiry.

Government ‘ignored’ advice

He added that the government had ignored advice from solicitors and legal experts to delay introducing the mandatory online applications.

The probate registry employs 215 people, compared to 156 in 2018, and costs £7.5 million a year to run, compared to £5.7 million two years ago.

Mr Stephenson asked the minister to explain why the service now meant the issuing of grants of probate in seven weeks plus, as opposed to the three weeks it used to take under the old system.

Speaking to Today’s Wills and Probate, Ian Bond, a member of the Probate User Group on Behalf of the Law Society, said the service people were seeing now was not representative of what it would be like if the country was not in the middle of a pandemic and all the restrictions that involves, including staff needing to work from home.

He added that the old system would not have been able to cope in lockdown, and that he and the other members of the Probate User Group would continue to engage with HMCTS to try and bring about improvements.

The 5 Steps to a Successful Probate Application is available by clicking on this link.