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Almost 20 regional probate offices closed their doors for the final time last week as the government continues with plans to modernise the courts and tribunals service.
A total of 18 sub-registries have shut (in Bodmin, Caernarvon, Carlisle, Carmarthen, Chester, Exeter, Gloucester, Lancaster, Leicester, Lincoln, Maidstone, Middlesbrough, Norwich, Nottingham, Peterborough, Sheffield, Stoke on Trent and York) and further closures are planned.
The chief executive of HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS), Susan Acland-Hood, said work would now be reassigned to national courts and tribunals service centres and the closures would not delay applications for grants of probate.
In a letter to stakeholders she wrote: “As the probate reform project progresses, and more probate work is moved to the service centres, there will be a managed programme to close further registries, but this will only happen when we are confident closures will not adversely impact the time it takes for users to obtain grants of probate. There will be no further closures before April 2020, and we will let you know about other closures as they are confirmed.’
Solicitors and others in the legal sector have complained of delays to the probate system since a software issue last spring. In November, HMCTS said delays would be over by Christmas and applicants should not contact local registries with probate queries. Instead, they should contact the Birmingham Courts and Tribunal Service Centre which can apparently deal with all enquiries.
Speaking to The Law Society Gazette, Simon Davis, president of the Law Society, said: “The decision to close local probate registries comes just as waits for probate grant applications have started to return to normal. HMCTS must ensure these closures do not cause any further delays and we will continue to work with them to create a probate service fit for the 21st century.”
It is understood the closures will not lead to any immediate redundancies.