Solicitors will be forced to submit probate applications online from next month under legislation laid in parliament today, as the government promises a ‘quicker and more reliable’ probate service.
The statutory instrument mandates that legal professionals use the online system in the majority of probate cases from 2 November. For more complex cases involving multiple claimants where the deceased has no will, paper forms will still be allowed to ensure that proper manual checks take place.
According to the Ministry of Justice, the reforms should see around three quarters of professional user applications move online. According to the latest government figures, just a third of probate applications are currently arriving in digital form.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: ‘Our efficient online probate services are simpler, quicker and more reliable, and reduce the stress on grieving families.’ It added that the probate reform programme is expected to generate savings of £20 million over a 10 year period.
The announcement follows a consultation that closed on 10 September. The Law Society said it agreed in principle with mandating online professional applications.
However, Law Society president Simon Davis added: ‘Whilst there are clear benefits to having all professional probate applications online – such as that the online system provides instant feedback – solicitors have also experienced some teething problems with the new system.
‘HMCTS must ensure that these issues are resolved and the system is fit for purpose before it is fully rolled out and the new rules come into force. Further clarity is also needed on what alternatives will be available if the system experiences difficulties – such as technology issues or if the case is particularly complex or unusual.’