30th November 2020

Applying for probate online: how to avoid delays

As of 2017, you can now apply for probate online. Here’s what to know – and how to avoid delays along the way.

As of 2017, you can now apply for probate online. Here’s what to know – and how to avoid delays along the way.

Having the ability to apply for Grant of Probate online is giving executors in England and Wales more autonomy. The system is designed to streamline the entire process, making it easier to do. It also gives all legal professionals 24/7 access to the online service, helping us to give our clients real-time updates and to keep the process moving.

However, there have been a few teething problems since the system was established a few years ago. Common application errors are also causing unnecessary delays, so there are a few things you can do to help speed up your wait time.

Can I apply for Grant of Probate online?

Personal executors, or the people in charge of administering an estate, can apply online for Grant of Probate. However, you need to meet certain criteria to do so. There needs to be an original Will available and only up to four executors can apply. It’s also only available in situations where the deceased had their permanent home in England or Wales, or planned to return to their home in these locations permanently.

How do you apply for Grant of Probate online?

You can apply online using the HM Courts & Tribunal Service (HMCTS). The digital system lets you carry out most of the process online. For example, you can pay the fee online rather than sending a cheque, and it allows you to submit a Statement of Truth to declare that the information you’ve provided is correct, rather than having to visit the Probate Office to swear an oath in person.

However, you will still need to send in paper copies of the Will, death certificate and other documents you are asked for.

Why has the online process been experiencing delays?

In March 2020, HMCTS migrated to a new back-office system that took up much of its employees’ time. Employees had to learn the new system, which caused a delay in processing applications. HMCTS also reported a 50% increase in demand in March and April, putting pressure on the service. As a result, executors were experiencing a six to eight week waiting time, but some people have reported much longer setbacks.

How to avoid Grant of Probate delays

According to HMCTS, many of the longer wait times are caused by missing or incorrect information in the application. For example, names on the Will not matching the exact names on the application. It is understandable why some documents might not be present and correct. The digital probate application is a long and complex one, and it can be difficult for executors new to the process to know where to look for the necessary information.

To help prevent delays, HMCTS encourages executors to do the following when applying for Grant of Probate online:

  • Double check all names in the application are the same as on the Will
  • Ensure any other executors are accounted for on the application
  • Sign all necessary documents
  • Make sure the Inheritance Tax form is provided or that HM Revenue and Customs is sending the IHT421 Probate Summary directly to them
  • Send the correct fee

Fortunately, the online service has a ‘save and return’ function. Some executors find it helpful to save the application and return to it later as they find or confirm information.

Can you apply for Grant of Probate online yourself?

Yes, you can apply online yourself. You can also get help from a solicitor. In both cases, consulting a legal professional can help ensure all the information and the fee is correct to avoid delays.

Our Probate checklists

To help you find all the details, documents and business papers needed to complete the probate application successfully, we provide our clients with a questionnaire that acts as a checklist. If finding the information proves difficult, our solicitors can investigate the matter for you.

Our legal professionals have guided many clients through the process of applying for Grant of Probate, from start to finish. As well as finding the correct information, we also deal with calculating the gross and net assets of the estate, calculating Inheritance Tax and arranging for payment, and preparing and lodging documents with the Probate Registry. For advice and guidance from our solicitors, please get in touch.

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