Will Probate Applications be Simpler if they go Digital?

Probate Help, Guide to Probate, Will Writing

Dealing with someone’s estate can prove difficult as it involves lot of paperwork, both in relation to the tax treatment of the estate and the probate application itself, but will the online service from the Probate Registry make savings in time and money?

What is different?

Personal applicants can make online applications to the Probate Service and in order to take advantage the application must meet the following criteria:

  • They must be the only executor applying

  • The original signed Will is ready for sending to the Probate Registry

  • England and Wales was considered the home of the deceased or if they had intentions of returning back to England and Wales to reside permanently.

The first two criteria are simple to understand but the third can prove tricky. It is still not known what evidence will suffice when it comes to proving that the deceased had plans to return to England and Wales.

The whole point of the online application process is to simplify the application for personal applicants. They will have the ability to complete the online statement of truth which removes the need to swear an oath in person, fees can be paid online and it is possible to save the application and continue to complete it at another time.

This online application will work for some but not everyone. Cases where the deceases was not domiciled in England and Wales or the deceased died without a Will cannot use the new service.

What remains the same?

Applicants will still be required to provide the same supporting documents as well as the original Will and two photocopies. A death certificate will need to be supplied as well as inheritance tax forms and all other supporting documents. Unless this criteria is fulfilled, then the usual procedure will have to be followed to apply for grant of probate. There is a vast amount of paperwork involved in this with the most important documents for preparation being the Tax account for HMRC and the oath, which is sworn by the representatives.

What does the future hold?

HMRC is already moving across to a new digital world but those who are still unwilling to make the change can call or write to them, however, it can take time to receive a reply.

There is no doubt that going digital will make things much easier in the future, though the complexity of the process means that professional assistance will still be required. This is often true if there is a foreign element involved or if personal representatives are living abroad and require someone within the jurisdiction to handle matters for them.

The changes have been welcomed with a sense of caution by the Law Society. There are concerns that it could lead to fraud and people who are vulnerable being taken advantage of by others on their behalf. Given that hacking and cyber security is an ongoing concern, there is a genuine reason for these worries as more and more of our details are being posted online.

Many personal representatives are still keen to hand over the responsibility and work to a professional.


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