Ministry of Justice works on digital probate delays

More staff and further improvements to digital service aim to cut waiting times

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The Ministry of Justice has taken “urgent action” including more staff to reduce recent delays to its digital probate service, according to one of its ministers.

Simon Hart, Conservative backbencher for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, asked a number of parliamentary written questions about problems with the new digital probate system, which according to a May article in the Law Society Gazette was causing delays of six to eight weeks for some solicitors.

“Urgent action has been taken to address the delays which have been experienced in the probate service,” justice minister Paul Maynard responded on 18 June. “Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service is increasing staffing levels and further improving the digital service to help reduce waiting times.”

In response to other questions from Hart, Maynard said that the system’s digital case management system is fully functional, and that HMCTS is planning to extend the online probate service to all user groups and probate types by the end of autumn 2019. He added that 93% of those who have offered feedback on the service said they were satisfied or very satisfied with it.

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The introduction of the new system coincided with a planned but since postponed change in probate fees. This would have seen fees removed from probate application for estates worth less than £50,000, up from £5,000, but the standard charge of £215 for individuals would have been replaced by a sliding scale with the largest estates charged £6,000. The Law Society Gazette said the planned rise in fees may have caused a spike in applications aiming to beat its introduction.

“Our new online service is making probate simpler and more convenient for bereaved people,” said a Ministry of Justice spokesperson. “Some grants are experiencing delays of 2-4 weeks and we are working hard to bring waiting times down further. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

The ministry launched the online probate service in January, which can be used when there is an original will and an original or interim death certificate. It ended the need for many people to attend a probate registry in person. 

PublicTechnology staff

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