Nearly all probate sub-registries could shut down by the end of March as part of a government modernisation project, the Gazette understands.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service intends to close almost all of its 18 probate sub-registries by the end of the first quarter, subject to negotiations with unions and statutory timescales on redundancy and the redeployment of staff, the Gazette has been told. However, the timetable – which was proposed before the December election – could change depending on the outcome of a consultation.

The proposed closures are part of the government’s £1bn ‘Transforming our Justice System’ programme which aims to introduce technology and modern ways of working to court and tribunal services. In August, Birmingham District Probate Registry was the first office to close, with online applications re-directed to Birmingham Courts and Tribunal Service Centre.

The ongoing digitalisation of the probate process aims to reduce the need for multiple probate registries and sub-registries. The eventual plan is to move probate services to the Courts and Tribunals Service Centre in Birmingham, with some administrative work taking place at a second site.

The Law Society plans to meet HMCTS at the end of January to discuss further details.