All probate applications made by solicitors would have to be conducted online under Ministry of Justice proposals to encourage practitioners to go digital. In June, four out of five professional applications for grants of probate still arrived in paper form.
In a consultation published today, the government proposes changing non-contentious probate rules to make it mandatory for solicitors and other probate practitioners to use the online process. The MoJ said it is ‘clear the process has to modernise’ and online applications would speed up processing times.
‘Mandating the process will accelerate it and encourage users to adapt and take the necessary steps for the transition while helping to achieve the savings which HM Courts & Tribunals Service needs to deliver in fulfilling the requirements of the investment in the HMCTS reform programme,’ the consultation paper states.
Solicitors have been asked to respond to the proposals by 10 September.
So far, the profession’s response to online applications has been lacklustre. The online probate service was introduced following changes to the Non-Contentious Probate Rules in 2017. However, in June this year - despite lockdown - just a fifth of applications from solicitors were made online, compared with a third from lay applicants.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: 'Our online probate services are simpler, quicker and more reliable – reducing the cost of erroneous forms and saving the taxpayer money. We urge legal professionals to respond to the consultation and help us move towards a more efficient process of handling probate applications.'
It added that the Covid-19 pandemic has seen a significant rise in the numbers of professionals taking the online route.