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Online probate service now open to legal professionals in England and Wales

Thursday, 3 October, 2019

As of 1 October, legal professionals in England and Wales can now apply online in most cases of probate, intestacy or a grant of letters of administration.

The lay public has had access to the system for some time, and according to the Ministry of Justice, is generally favourable to it, even though it does not actually speed up the process of obtaining probate. Its main advantage is that users can track the status of their applications as they progress through the system, thus removing the need to phone the Probate Service for updates.

The only paper that will need to be sent to the probate service is the original will and inheritance tax documentation. These will be scanned in and automatically attached to the relevant electronic application. HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) notes that human officials will still check the original will.

However, fully paper applications can still be submitted. In fact, paper must still be used for exceptional applications, such as where the deceased was domiciled abroad or where an executor has lost capacity, until the new service is developed in order to handle these more complicated circumstances. The service for caveats will also remain a paper application for legal professionals, for the time being. Anything submitted on paper must be sent by recorded delivery.

Law firms will have to register with the ‘pay by account’ system in order to use the service, which enables them to pay for online applications via HMCTS' ‘fee account system’. They will also have to pay extra if they want a sealed copy of the will along with the grant of probate; these will no longer be provided automatically.