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Birmingham District Probate Registry is due to shut its doors for the last time on Friday 30 August, becoming the first probate register office to close under the government’s £1bn courts reform programme.
The news has been greeted with concern and frustration by many solicitors, who are already having to wait months for grants of probate.
Birmingham Courts and Tribunal Service Centre will take over online applications, while paper applications will be sent 200 miles to the Newcastle register office.
The government says all staff affected by the closure have been redeployed within HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS).
Speaking to the Law Society Gazette, Ian Bond, chair of the Society’s wills and equity committee, said: “We are disappointed with the closures, especially at a time when they have such a backlog of work. It would be better to delay the closures and get the new systems working first rather than trying to both bed in a new IT system and close registries.”
David Greene, Laws Society vice president, added: “With solicitors and lay applicants across the country reporting waits of over six to eight weeks for grants of probate – partly due to a spike in applications before fees increase – it is especially disappointing to hear of this closure.”
The number of probate applications rose by 22 per cent (year on year) in March as solicitors attempted to beat fee increases due to come into force at the beginning of April. The rises did not actually happen, however.