Legal professionals would have to make probate applications online, under latest proposals from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) designed to boost uptake of digital services.

In a consultation paper published this week, the government has laid out its plans to change non-contentious probate rules so that solicitors and other probate practitioners have to use the online process. In June, four out of five professional applications for grants of probate still arrived in paper form and the MoJ has decided “the process has to modernise”.

According to the consultation, the online process “represents a more secure and reliable system which offers cost savings and a range of efficiencies”. These, it adds, include a reduction in numbers of incorrect forms being returned and fewer queries regarding the progress of individual cases.

The document also predicts a “more flexible operating model as staff are able to work remotely” with quicker processing resulting in more applications being dealt with and a drop in waiting times.

It states: “Moving from a paper-based system means costs of maintaining large archives of application documents are lessened while improving records storage and management… [and] records can be searched and located much more easily.”

The online probate service was introduced in 2017, but take-up by professionals has been relatively slow; although it has risen significantly during the pandemic.

An MoJ spokesperson told the Law Society Gazette: “Our online probate services are simpler, quicker and more reliable. We urge legal professionals to respond to the consultation and help us move towards a more efficient process of handling probate applications.”

Solicitors have until 10 September to respond to the consultation document.