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Law Society publishes latest guidance on applying for grants of probate

The Law Society of England and Wales has published up-to-date guidance for practitioners on applying for grants of probate. Here’s what the guidance says.

Probate fees

From 26th January 2022, all users of the probate service pay a single, flat rate fee of £273.

The MoJ continues to waive probate fees altogether for estates worth £5,000 and under. The Law Society have suggested that users should be offered reimbursement for probate delays.

Online applications

From 2nd November 2020, all grants of probate applications (where there’s a will) must be made using the online service for professionals: MyHMCTS.

With the online service, you can:

  • Monitor the stages of your application without needing to phone HMCTS for an update
  • Receive notifications of any status changes – for instance, if there’s been a stop
  • Share a case if you’re on annual leave or changing jobs by assigning it to someone else in your firm

See HMCTS’s guidance on applying for probate

Where to send evidence for online applications

Send all documents supporting an online application, such as a will, to:

HMCTS Probate
PO Box 12625
Harlow
CM20 9QE

Do not send completed paper forms alongside supporting documents for an online application. The automated bulk-scanning process reads this paper form as a separate application, which:

  • Creates a duplicate case
  • Deducts an extra fee from the linked account
  • Delays the online application while HMCTS identifies and refunds duplicate cases

Attach a cover letter for all evidence

Every piece of evidence that you send to Harlow needs an attached PDF cover letter. These are needed for HMCTS to link documents to online applications.

Cover sheets will be auto-populated with certain information, including the case reference.

The cover sheet should also have a reminder of what documents should be going with it.

Download the cover letter (Word 50 KB)

If there is no cover letter – even if the case reference number is on the correspondence or document – the evidence will fall into an “exceptions queue”, which causes delays.

If you cannot print the PDF, a blank piece of paper with the case reference number on top of the document is fine.

Paper applications

You should wait 16 weeks after HMCTS has received the application before contacting the CTSC (Courts and Tribunals Service Centre). HMCTS will not act on standard applications before this.

Exceptions that require priority action include cases involving:

  • Hardship
  • House sales (the property was placed on the market before the deceased passed away), or
  • Court action

The Law Society have raised the long wait times in their meetings with HMCTS.

While paper applications are generally more complex than online requests, HMCTS accepts more action is needed to tackle the long waits, which are increasing phone queries.

Find out how to contact HMCTS

Annotated PA1P and PA1A forms for legal professionals

The PA1P and PA1A forms have been annotated with the registrar’s comments.

The annotated forms, coupled with the updated FAQs, can help you in applying for probate when using the paper forms.

Download:

PA17 and PA18 forms

Probate practitioners may also find these supporting forms useful:

  • PA17 form – giving up probate executor rights
  • PA18 form – find out what form and evidence you need for complex estates

Where to send paper applications

For paper applications in English, professional users should send forms (PA1A and PA1P) to:

Newcastle District Probate Registry
2nd Floor, Kings Court
Earl Grey Way
North Shields
NE29 6AR

For bilingual / Welsh language applications, send paper applications to:

Probate Registry of Wales
3rd Floor, Cardiff Magistrates Court
Fitzalan Place
Cardiff
CF24 0RZ

You should only send solicitor paper applications that cannot follow the online journey to Newcastle or Cardiff.

See above for where to send evidence for online applications

Common issues

How you can help reduce ‘stops’

For probate practitioners, common reasons for stopped applications include:

  • inheritance tax (IHT) – most common cause of delay for professional users
  • will’s physical condition – unexplained alterations or damage
  • executor not being accounted for – are any executors pre-deceased?
  • extra documents are needed and reminders have to be sent out
  • content of the will, for example if it’s not been signed

Read HMCTS’ blog on common causes of application stops

Find out how to check the progress of your cases

Checking application progress

You can check the status of your applications at any time using the MyHMCTS dashboard.

Before contacting HMCTS directly to check application progress, you should wait 16 weeks for either paper or online applications.

From April 2023, for paper applications, HMCTS will send an email notification when the will and supporting papers have been received. This means you’ll no longer need to call the service centre to enquire about receipt.

Contacting HMCTS

Courts and Tribunals Service Centre

Telephone: 0300 303 0648

Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Closed on bank holidays

Find out about call charges

Webchat

Email: contactprobate@justice.gov.uk

Start a webchat

HMCTS has reduced its call wait times to under 15 minutes on average.

For a shorter wait time, the best times to contact HMCTS (including via webchat) are:

  • 8am to 9am
  • 5pm to 6pm

Monday is the busiest day and Friday is the quietest.

Quieter periods are usually from Tuesday to Thursday, between 8am to 10am and 4pm to 6pm. (This is subject to demand and resource availability.)

Your feedback

If you have other queries or concerns about the probate service that you’d like us to raise with HMCTS, email hmctscourtreform@lawsociety.org.uk.

Acknowledgements

This guide has been developed from updates from the probate service user group, which includes:

  • The Law Society
  • HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS)
  • STEP Society (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners)
  • Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales
  • Institute of Legacy Management

Credit: The Law Society of England and Wales

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