HMCTS has confirmed the Birmingham District Probate Registry will be the first registry to close on 31st August due to probate being handled by their new Courts & Tribunals Service Centres (CTSCs).
Probate work has been slowly moving away from the Birmingham Registry Office since March 2019 and all digital applications have been moved to the new CTSC. However, any paper applications received were being re-directed to the Newcastle Registry Office.
In a letter from HMCTS’ chief executive, Susan Acland-Hood outlined the move to new CTSCs ‘as part of the HMCTS Reform Programme to modernise courts and tribunals..’ adding that ‘the probate service is becoming a digitally-enabled national service.’
The letter confirmed that the closure meant the Birmingham public counter will also close but there will be no redundancies as staff working from the Birmingham Registry Office will be found other jobs within HMCTS.
Acland-Hood explained that any new cases going forward should be sent to the Newcastle District Probate Registry and those who want to deliver correspondence in person in Birmingham can still do so at the old Birmingham Registry at The Priory Courts in Bull Street.
The CEO of HMCTS clarified why there have been prolonged delays on probate applications by saying:
“A large increase in probate applications in March and April, combined with the introduction of new systems, has meant longer waiting times for probate than we would like.”
The letter continued by outlining how they propose to tackle the issue by saying
‘….we will continue to support probate with increased staffing and help from other parts of HMCTS until waiting times return to normal.’
In regards to future closures of probate registries, HMCTS advise there will be no more closures before September 2019 but as the Probate Reform project progresses there will be forthcoming closures.
Ian Bond, Chair of The Law Society’s ‘Wills and Equity Committee’ commented. He said:
“The Law Society will continue to engage with HM Courts and Tribunals Service and to challenge them to improve their service to users, reduce the application backlogs and to create a probate service fit for the 21st century.”
Emily Deane, Technical Counsel at The Society of Trust & Estate Practitioners (STEP) further added. She said:
“While STEP is well aware that HMCTS is trying to get its new digital system up and running, we question whether this is the best time to close another Registry and lose its vital resources.
“One of the most pressing issues at the moment is that probate delays are making it difficult for executors to pay IHT on estates, since they cannot gain access to funds until the grants have been issued. As a result, estates are charged daily rates of interest on the late IHT payments.
“STEP has asked HMCTS to consult with HMRC on this issue, to see if it will waive the interest accrued on outstanding IHT, or permit a longer timeframe for paying by instalments. We are concerned that by closing an additional registry, the backlogs and disruption to the probate service will escalate still further.”
Do you think the closure of a probate registry will make matters worse in terms of probate delays?