HM, Courts & Tribunals Service made a major announcement in mid-January this year, saying their online probate service would be greatly enhanced to make applying for probate simpler and easier. The intention of this updated service is to enable people applying for probate to do so from the comfort of their own home, even with up to four Executors. The system allows up to four joint Executors to apply, pay and even swear a statement of truth online. This reduces the need for Executors to visit a probate registry or a solicitor’s office.
Anyone can now apply for the Grant of Probate online if:
- They have the original death certificate or interim death certificate from the coroner.
- The person who died was domiciled in England or Wales at the time of their death.
- An Inheritance Tax (IHT) form has been filled in.
- The person who died left a Will.
- They have the original Will in their possession.
- They are an Executor of the estate.
- All Executors have the mental capacity to make their own decisions.
- The person applying has their own email address.
The advances in online probate applications are just part of a £1billion programme of court reform. The programme aims to introduce new technology and bring the justice system in line with modern ways of working.
HM Courts & Tribunals Service Chief Executive, Susan Acland-Hood said: “Making probate simpler and more convenient, and removing the need to attend a probate registry and swear an oath in person, helps bereaved people at a very challenging time – those who have tested our new service have told us how much difference it makes. I am delighted we are now able to offer this new, simpler way of doing probate to the public at large. It is part of the work we’re doing to make the justice system easier to navigate for everyone.”
HM Courts & Tribunals Service has stated that they will continue to make improvements and add more features. They already have plans to extend online applications to those dealing with an estate where the deceased did not leave a Will. They are encouraging users of the online service to share their feedback.
Although the online probate application process may have got easier, administering a deceased’s estate can still take a significant amount of time and effort. Applying for the Grant of Probate is just one small part of the estate administration process. The Executor(s) must also deal with all their assets (such as property, shares and personal possessions), paying debts, paying any Inheritance Tax and Income Tax, and transferring inheritance to the beneficiaries of the estate. Estate administration can be extremely complex and is required after every death, whether or not there is a Will.
Executors named in the Will are financially and legally responsible for administering the estate but they are by no means obliged to take on the responsibility. They have a choice of whether or not to accept the role, the right to seek advice from a professional, and can even ask a professional estate administrator to manage the estate on their behalf.