Probate has, up until recently, been a largely paper-driven process; not least because of the risk of fraud and the strict security and validation measures needed to protect against this.
However, since 2016 the HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has been pursuing modernisation of the system via its comprehensive ‘reform programme’. The intent behind the programme is to make the most of new ways of working and advancements in technology, and to create a more straightforward, accessible and efficient system for users.
As far as probate is concerned, HMCTS’ focus is on making it possible to complete the majority of the process online (where the probate is non-contentious).
Online probate service in development
With the online service made available to probate practitioners acting on behalf of bereaved individuals and families at the end of 2019, we are obviously keen for our clients to benefit from a more ‘streamlined’ experience and we follow ongoing developments with interest.
For now, it is a work-in-progress as it currently does not allow for some of the more complex applications to be dealt with effectively, there are certain pieces of documentation that must still be submitted on paper and, as with any new system, it takes time to bed in and for glitches to be identified and eliminated.
Probate sub-registry closures
Another big step for HMCTS, which we blogged about earlier this year, was the shutting down of a number of its probate sub-registries throughout the UK.
Despite long delays and a significant backlog of applications having built up in 2019, following the debacle associated with proposed fee changes, the closures went ahead in line with the desire to create a more centralised service.
Centralisation should, at least, make for more efficient and consistent handling of physical probate applications that are currently moving through the system.
New grant of representation application forms
Most recently, HMCTS has launched new standard grant of representation application forms for practitioners, which replaces the requirement for a ‘Statement of Truth’ and is expected to make digitisation of paperwork that bit easier in the long-term.
This means lay applicants and professional practitioners now have to adhere to the same procedure, using standard forms PA1A (letters of representation), PA1P (grant of probate) and PA8A (caveat) as appropriate.
The forms were introduced on 23 March 2020. Any Statements of Truth submitted after 20 April 2020 will be returned and the respective new form requested.
Tax Partner, Barry Jefferd, says: “Providing HMCTS’ systems are robust, online improvements are welcome. However, it is all too easy for non-qualified professionals or lay-people to treat online filing with a lower level of care and accuracy then they might with paper forms.
“It can be the case that somebody is led by the computer and fails to understand the importance of the questions being asked or, indeed, the information that they are supplying. Being an Executor is an important role with potentially serious implications, including personal liabilities for debts, if things go wrong.”
How can GH Probate help?
The process of obtaining probate, as well as all that follows, can be complicated and often time-consuming; not least because of the various rules, regulations and steps to adhere to.
GH Probate Ltd. offer a comprehensive, non-contentious, service from offices in Huntingdon, Biggleswade and Letchworth, without any need to involve a third party. This instantly simplifies the whole process, for you.
You can rest assured that everything will be carried out correctly; we act with compassion and discretion, and we will do everything within our power to minimise any delays. To talk to one of our probate practitioners about how we can support you, contact us today.
Our Probate service is provided through GH Probate Limited.
GH Probate is the trading style of GH Probate Limited. Registered in England and Wales number 9630102. Registered Office: St George’s House, George Street, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire PE29 3GH.
Authorised to carry out the reserved legal activity of non-contentious probate in England and Wales by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales