All solicitors will be able to apply for probate online from 1 October, according to a statutory instrument laid before parliament this week.

At the moment, only 28 firms are using the digital service, which has been plagued by long delays

However, non-contentious probate rules have changed so that from October any solicitor or probate practitioner can apply for probate online without an invitation from a registry.

While the legislation allows the government to widen access, it does not require it to do so immediately.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) met the Law Society, Solicitors for the Elderly and the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (Step) yesterday to discuss delays to grants of probate caused by an earlier technical glitch

According to Step, HMCTS said that it is issuing around 20,000 grants a month, of which 12,000 to 13,000 are from practitioners. It added that it is dealing with grants in date order, oldest first, and that it does not prioritise grants according to urgency. It will not deal with applications more quickly by request.

The Ministry of Justice said that widening access to online applications will significantly improve the service for legal practitioners and enable them to benefit from more accessible, economic and timely processing of probate applications.

Michael Culver, chair of the board at Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE), said: ‘We’ve been informed that extra resource has been brought on board to help get through the backlog, and applications have been shared between different registries to distribute the workload. SFE remains concerned for those in society who are in need of an urgent grant. We have another meeting scheduled with HMCTS at the end of August to discuss the issue further.'


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