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Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is putting additional resources in place to deal with an anticipated rise in probate applications, while also encouraging probate professionals to use its online resources.
During the latest Probate Service User Group meeting, with the Law Society, the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE), the Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAEW) and the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), HMCTS officials pointed out that, while the volume of probate applications has risen in recent weeks, it has been a smoother increase than had been anticipated, with the average number of grants issued per week during August at 5,700, an increase of around 500 per week on pre-pandemic levels.
HMCTS added that most personal applications are being made digitally, while legal professionals are being strongly encouraged to use the MyHMCTS portal to submit their applications.
Last week the service also published a “case study” providing an update on progress. Entitled Probate online, collaborating to tackle issues, this stressed that the service was taking “a collaborative approach” to widen take-up of the system.
Since the project began in April 2016, HMCTS said it has looked to provide the same benefits as a simplified paper-based application process, while trying not to disadvantage anybody who does not have internet access.
Individual applicants were already using the online system in high numbers by autumn 2019, it added. Probate practitioners, however, were slower off the mark and “largely remained using the paper process which takes more time for HMCTS to administer and means the applicant cannot track its progress”.
Following work with the user group, including a programme of explanatory webinars, the service said it has seen a marked uptick in practitioners using the system, and this has meant it was now “confident enough in the system to consult on mandating its use for all practitioners”.
It also pointed out that services that already have a stronger online presence, for example divorce and probate, have coped better with the demands of the pandemic and “have been able to continue to process thousands of applications each week throughout”.
HMCTS is calling for professionals to continue to provide feedback that will ultimately improve the online probate service. Anyone looking to get involved should contact probatefeedback@Justice.gov.uk.