New Rules Allow Trust Corporations To Apply For Grants, Simplified Applications And More
HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has introduced a flurry of changes to the probate system ahead of a controversial hike in fees for users.
The new rules mean trust corporations, which are traditionally created by law firms, can apply for grants online. Other changes include a more straightforward application process for users and no longer requiring proof of death for executors that have passed away before probate was applied for on a will.
The Ministry of Justice announced plans earlier this year to increase probate fees to £273 for all applicants, professional or layperson, and regardless of the estate’s size.
The move has been contested by the legal sector as new figures show the average wait time for probate to be granted is 7.6 weeks. For stopped applications the wait increases dramatically, with digital applications taking over 10 weeks and paper applications 17.48 weeks.
The digital probate system, MyHMCTS, was first introduced in early 2020. As of November 2020, most grant of probate applications had to be submitted digitally through the new system.
Trusts and probate experts at Irwin Mitchell say allowing practitioners to sign a legal statement on behalf of an applicant will help to speed up the application process, but the fees increase is hard to justify when there are still huge issues with delay as the new digital system beds down.
Expert Opinion“The changes being made by HMCTS this week are very useful and should have a positive effect. They should simplify and speed things up for the clients as well as practitioners, where two or more fee earners are often working on one case at a time.
“However the positive news is short-lived against the backdrop of an unfair probate fees increase which concerns many across the industry. Certainly in the light of the current slow service and satisfaction level provided by the Probate Registry, the proposed rise seems unwarranted.
“It’s a difficult situation because it’s hard to see how the service is to be improved without additional funding, and this increase is at the very least more reasonable than those increases previously proposed.
“We wait to see what the consultation results will bring and how the proposed fees increase can be further justified.” Thomas Pape - Associate Paralegal
The Government’s consultation period on probate fees will run until the 23 September.