Using the Online Probate Application system

I have registered to make my Probate Applications online, and have had a look at my first application today. I have an estate using the IHT205 & IHT217 forms, and there’s no tax to pay. I’m finding it very frustrating, as I am unable to submit the IHT forms online, as I’m a professional acting for an Executor.

The notes at the beginning of the application process say you can only use the system if you have already submitted the figures to HMRC. I haven’t as its a lower value estate, with no IHT to pay.

Phone calls to HMRC and HMCTS - both referred me to the other. HMRC not interested in IHT 205. HMCTS just don’t know as its to do with IHT!

Anyone else made an online application, and did you end up sending the Will, IHT forms, etc to the Probate Registry in the post? What is the point?

Hugely frustrated as I thought it would be more straightforward and make the application quicker, but I think I will revert to the (paper and post) old fashioned way.

I do feel like they are pushing us professionals out of the way in probate applications, as members of the public can submit the IHT 205 online already, and have been able to for a number of months.

Helen Beaumont
Kloosmans

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If you try to use the online IHT reporting system on behalf of an executor you get the following message:

There is no change to how agents report estate values to HMRC. You must continue to use either an IHT205 or an IHT400 paper form.

It therefore seems that professionals are effectively excluded from applying for probate online as we cannot report to HMRC online.

R Simpson
Thomas Simpson Solicitors

I’m afraid you will need to prepare for more frustration! And there are other issues…I have submitted two cases online and note the following:

  1. You still need to send in the post the original Will, IHT205, and a printout of the application details. The Executor signs a statement that you keep on file that consents to you applying on their behalf, this isn’t sent to the Probate Registry
  2. You cannot make any amendments to the information that you enter! My client amended the valuation of the house and I was unable to amend the figures that I had submitted, essentially what would have been in the Oath/Statement of Truth! I had to submit a correct IHT205 & tell them in a covering letter that it was the IHT205, and not the online figures, that were correct. I still had a query from them and had to submit a ‘statement of truth’ via email.
  3. I have had the same frustrations with the 'help’lines! The probate service said I needed to speak to HMRC when I talked about an IHT205 and seemed to have NO IDEA about the process, so have no experience and have been given no training! I could not make them understand my query at all.
  4. There is an email address on one of the webpages for the Birmingham registry that says you should contact them with queries and you then get an out of office saying it is closed! The correct email address for queries appears to be - probatefeedback@Justice.gov.uk
  5. I submitted a query to the technical team about the issue with not being able to make changes to the figures on my online case back in November and have still not had a response
  6. My online cases have now disappeared on my account!! Part of the convenience was supposed to be that we could track our cases but both of my cases have now disappeared!! (and yes, I have tried changing all the filters, I am not hopeless with technology). I have put in a technical query/complaint about this aspect in November as well and have not had a response on this either!!

It’s a shambles! Stay away for as long as possible…I won’t be making any more online submissions until I hear that there are vasts improvements. Though I suspect we will be forced to apply online before long, I was looking to see if that was the plan, but couldn’t see anything online to that effect…yet…!

Clare Presley
Newtons Solicitors

Thank you both for your replies. I shall carry on submitting through the post although it does seem to put us professionals on the back foot.

Hopefully they’ll get it sorted soon!!

Helen Beaumont
Kloosmans

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By way of update on this, I have received two Grants of Probate this week, but my online application took longer than the paper one!

Online application - submitted 11/11/2019 - received 14/01/2020 - 9 weeks
Paper application - submitted 02/12/2019 - received 13/01/2020 - 6 weeks

There were no queries or stops on either case. Still no response on the disappearing cases, or the inability to edit, either!

Clare Presley
Newtons Solicitors

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Following on from the posts above, my firm has not yet registered to the online service in part due to the problems set out above. I note from a HMCTS circular update dated 10.2.20 only 698 firms have so far registered for the online service.

Previously a quick call to the local probate registry (after providing the name of the deceased and my details) would provide me with an update regarding the process of an application.

I have just telephoned the Probate CTSC helpline (for the first time) about the progress of a postal application submitted in mid December. My call today involved a lengthy security clearance process only to then be told that as my application was postal they do not have information on their system and cannot tell me whether correspondence has been received. I was told to contact them again in a couple of weeks if I’ve not heard anything as demand for their services was very high.

It’s all ok though because this is the future!

Sarah Arundel
Taylor Fawcett

I have called the helpline given, but its only for online applications! I email them with any queries/chasers - sometimes I get a response. Hard work though - not very impressive.

Did you see the Law Society’s note of 24th February? Surprisingly the ‘HMCTS haven’t seen a great shift in applications coming though digitally…’ Wonder why?

It would be nice for them to ask our opinions - has anyone been asked?

Helen Beaumont
Kloosmans

I’ve just read that Law Society note (thanks Helen).

Does this mean the settling service is now completely useless?:
“On Settling Service, …The probate service will only check validity of will, correct title and clearing, not standard clauses, nor proof read statement of truth.”

(It took me a little while to realise the “statement of truth” meant the oath.

Andrew Goodman
Osborne Clarke LLP

I have to admit Andrew, I haven’t used the settling service for a while as it became more restrictive in what they would and wouldn’t settle for me. I was a useful service but now very specialised.
If you could speak to someone on the phone, they may suggest Tristram and Cootes precedents, but even this is disappearing.

Had a client in this morning who asked if I was using the digital system to apply for the Grant. I said no, and explained to them the system we have been given, and they said ‘but we can submit the IHT205/217 online and do everything online ourselves?’ I can see we will be needed less and less for all but the super complicated work or where they are family feuds (evermore increasing for me unfortunately).

Helen Beaumont
Kloosmans

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