As the Grant of Representation (Grant of Probate/Letters of Administration) application process has remained largely unchanged for many years, probate practitioners have needed to adjust quickly to the recent changes introduced. Whether the changes are favoured or not by practitioners, HMCTS has moved from a process that some would describe as ‘archaic’ or ‘outdated’ to something that reflects today’s digital society.

There have been three key changes which are summarised below together with how it is considered this will impact on practitioners.

Statement of Truth

The first of these changes saw the introduction of the ‘Statement of Truth’ to replace the traditional ‘Oath’ with the content and format of the ‘Statement of Truth’ remaining the same as the ‘Oath’. Introduced in November 2018, it removed the need for an applicant to formally ‘swear’ an oath in the presence of an independent solicitor and to mark (sign) the Will. This was the first step in making the process more accessible for personal representatives.

New Probate Forms PA1P and PA1A

The second significant change was introduced on 23rd March this year, coinciding with the start of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting UK lockdown. HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) introduced new Probate forms, which include:

  • the PA1P for making an application for a ‘Grant of Probate’ or ‘Letters of Administration with the Will Annexed’; and
  • the PA1A for applying for Letters of Administration in an intestacy situation.

There are currently two sets of these forms, one for professional and one for personal applications, although the forms are largely the same. It is intended that these will be merged into one at a later date.

This was largely a positive change for practitioners as the forms are easy to complete for the majority of estates, despite them being fairly lengthy. They are a little more challenging for complex situations where some may have found drafting an ‘Oath’ or ‘Statement of Truth’ easier. The forms also ask for more family history which for most estates would not have been included in the previous documents. They are beneficial for HMCTS who achieve consistency in the information provided in support of the application and allow them to scan and process digitally all paper applications, leading to greater efficiencies in their processes. The forms were designed to be submitted online or in paper format.

Compulsory Online Submissions

The third change made it compulsory for professional applications to be submitted online with just a few exceptions. This change became effective on 2nd November this year, the aim being to significantly reduce postal applications, although there is still a need to post supporting documents such as the original Will. This aspect prevents HMCTS from providing a fully digitalised service.

The pandemic appears to have accelerated the government’s aim to deliver this digital service, which is intended to streamline the data capture process, reduce errors and most importantly to allow HMCTS staff to work remotely during these difficult times.

The further enhancements to the online service is expected to provide a valuable tool for practitioners. These changes allow users to see progress with their applications online, which previously could only be achieved by a time consuming call to the helpline. It is hoped that it will help practitioners to manage clients’ expectations more effectively as there will be greater visibility of the overall process.

In conclusion, the changes are mainly positive for the industry. It is hoped that HMCTS will continue to evolve the digital service in order to allow them to deliver a quicker turnaround time for issuing grants.

The team at ZEDRA Estate Planning are happy to support you through this process. If you have any queries on the probate process, or you need any help making an application, please see our probate services page or call 01565 748 808 or email ukestateplanning@zedra.com.

This content was originally published on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/applying-probate-recent-changes-explained-paula-barlow/?trackingId=6F4lraNeTrG%2BLgSd2rQ6PQ%3D%3D

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