Online probate applications

I’m just wondering what people’s thoughts and experiences are of the online system for probate applications.

Whilst working from home and without access to the usual postage and printing facilities I thought the system would be ideal, at least for intestacy cases, but have been surprised to see that you still need to submit a signed legal statement which rather defeats the purpose of an electronic system.

Joel Weitzman
The Probate Practice

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I think the label “online” for the new system is misleading. It automates the production of the statement of truth. The statement of truth then has to be printed and signed by the applicant. For the application to proceed a paper bundle has to be posted to the probate registry including the actual paper will and any codicils to it, IHT205, photocopy of the statement of truth bearing copy of the applicant’s signature and a cover sheet. It seems to me just as paper heavy as the old system.

Nicola Hopper
Williamson & Barnes

My understanding is that the only advantage should be that one is able to track the application. I haven’t attempted to do this yet as I have only recently submitted my first two ‘online’ applications, having initially got the clients to sign PA1P forms which I have now filed.
In one of the cases only one of the three executors was applying and as communication with the others had been by email and telephone, I did not have a note of their addresses, intending to email the notice of power reserved to them. However when I came to the online process, their addresses were required. Obviously I had to stop the process until I had made contact with them again, which was a bit of a pain. I am however wondering whether it would nevertheless be useful to have a PAP1 completed and signed by the client before proceeding to the online system. I’ll be interested to know what others think.

Patrick Moroney

I submitted probate online and received a reference number immediately that I included with the Will and sent this special delivery to the probate office. About a week before I sent the full IHT400 including IHT 421 to HMRC and 4 weeks later they wrote to say that they had sent IHT421 by email to the probate office.

Probate office wrote to me after 3 weeks to say that they were just waiting for IHT421.
I will chase probate office end of next week to see if they have matched up and when I can expect probate. So far so good.

John Horner

John I do hope this system works but from recent past experience where HMRC had confirmed it had provided HMCTS with the IHT 421, I found that I had to case the matter HM CTS nevertheless. One thing which I find odd is that HMRC sends a letter rather than an email confirming that they have carried out their side of the matter.

Patrick Moroney

Thanks Patrick. I did chase the probate office(by email) , but all I got back was essentially an out of office response that meant ‘dont contact us we will contact you’! The exact words were -

"Due to COVID-19, we are currently experiencing an increased demand on our service. We will take longer to answer your call and to respond to your e-mail. Unfortunately, we cannot provide updates on case progression over the phone, e-mail and webchat.

Probate applications currently take up to eight weeks to be fully processed from the date of receipt of your documentation. Please bear with us while we experience high demand on our service, we will contact you when we have reviewed your application. You do not need to do anything until then."

That was nearly 3 weeks ago.

So I have up to 5 weeks longer to wait before I can start chasing whether the probate office have managed to match up IHT421 with the probate application. This is frustrating. So close yet so far.

Is there anything else I can do in the meantime?

Thanks.

John Horner

The online system is beyond a farce. I have submitted applications in early June and have still not had them back. You are supposed to be able to sign the statement of truth on behalf of your client but those have been accepted or rejected at random. The Probate Registry in Harlow have lost the paper documents I sent in (including an original Will) and no one is dealing with how we are to move the application forward.

The cases come off of the online system when they start dealing with the case so you cant see what stage it is at. If they need something from you it is a lucky dip as to whether or not they contact you to ask you for it. They wait for you to call up. And then after you have sat on hold for 30 minutes waiting to get through, they tell you that you can only ask about 3 cases maximum on that call.

You respond to the enquiries and then hear nothing for weeks. And today I have just received an email (to my work email address) asking me to provide a different email address for the application as the email address “is not unique enough”. The whole system is rubbish and has made the process cumbersome and frustrating for clients and professionals alike. It is the worst thing they have done.

Gemma Van Duke
Bishopsgate Law

John I wish I knew. They are a law unto themselves as is evidenced by Gemma’s posting. Recently on following submission of an online application following which I sent the legal statement et cetera, I had an email asking me to send page 2 of the legal statement. The reason I had not sent page 2 watch because it was blank! I have now sent it nevertheless as obviously I was not going to get anywhere otherwise. As the Legal statement was saved online, wouldn’t they be able to access this in any case and would’ve seen that there was nothing missing from the statement?

Patrick Moroney

Thanks Patrick and Gemma. It looks like from your experience to date that I will be waiting another 5 weeks (this being 8 weeks from the date I know they received all my documentation) and then find I still am no further forward!

So in summary I am left with the probate office saying ‘dont contact us we will contact you’ and no way of knowing what stage my application has reached or importantly if they have matched up the IHT421 emailed by HMR&C to HM CTS. Like Patrick I also find it odd that HMR&C send me a letter (not email), but email HM CTS the IHT421 (I am assuming they did stamp it!) form!

I will let you know what happens (if anything) over the next 5 weeks!

John Horner

John, I submitted IHT forms on the same day as the online probate form. I called HMRC after 20 working days (time lapse for IHT to be reviewed) and they confirmed that the IHT421 had been sent to the probate office. I then called the probate office (following comments made on this page) to get them to confirm receipt, which they were able to do after a short search. This then meant my probate was added to the pile.

No news since but 8 weeks is only this week.

Try phoning probate office if you know 421 has been sent.

Lucy Orrow CTA TEP
Lambert Chapman LLP

Not fit for purpose. A complete shambles… editing does not appear possible. A junior fee earner started the form but I was unable to edit. Then told at the very end that because there is more than one child (intestacy), a paper application is required. I despair, perhaps the contract for rolling out online probate was given to PPE Medpro Limited… no experience necessary.

Haroon Rashid
I Will Solicitors Ltd

Thanks Lucy.

I called the probate office as you suggested this afternoon. Eventually after about an hour they answered the phone and confirmed they had received the IHT 421 from HMR&C. They also confirmed the probate office that was dealing with my application and said that it should be another 2 or 3 weeks (rough estimate!) before probate was granted. So at least I now know that they have all my documents and have matched up IHT421 with my application. We will see if they are correct with the rough estimate of 2 to 3 weeks!

Thanks for all your replies to date. I will report back after 3 weeks or when I receive probate (if earlier).

John Horner.

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I have had an awful experience with the online probate system. I submitted an unusual application that was not allowed online. (A partner with my firm applying as attorney for two executors who didnt wish to apply). I submitted a paper application in June and to date the probate registry at Chelmsford cannot locate the application and appear to have lost it completely.

I have made a formal complaint and got a general reply and was told that they would get back to me with a fuller explanation. That was over a month ago. I have submitted copies of all the papers again and they do not appear to be able to locate that at all.

It seems that in the months of June and July they have lost a lot of papers and there is a suggestion that there is major chaos in their scanning department and some documents got destroyed. When I ring, which I do on a regular basis to chase the lost probate I am hanging on for an hour on some occasions. Absolutely dreadful service, however, the staff who I speak to do try to assist me.

Leah Harper
Windeatts

Today I received a stamped IHT421 from HMRC and I received one in another estate last week. In some other estates I have received a letter from HMRC telling me that they have sent the IHT421 to HMCTS. In other estates I have not heard at all from HMRC and then received a Grant, so the IHT421 must have been sent to HMCTS. There is clearly no uniform practice.

As others have said, if HMRC could write to tell me that they have sent the IHT421 to HMCTS in some estates, they could just as easily have sent me the stamped IHT421.

With regard to the severe delays in receiving Grants, I read in the Law Society Gazette online today that a solicitor MP, John Stevenson, has raised this issue in Parliament. It is truly disgraceful. I am still waiting for a Grant in an estate where I submitted the application to HMCTS in June. It is an excepted estate, so there was no need for HMCTS to receive an IHT421.

Cliona O’Tuama

Solicitor

Update. Thanks all for your replies to date.
Yesterday I received an email from HMCTS saying that my probate application had been approved and that I should receive probate within 10 working days!

John Horner.

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Hi John,

Which number did you call for the probate office? I’ve just tried ringing and had the automated message saying don’t contact if before the 8 weeks. I submitted application on the 7th October and then got the confirmation of receipt of documents. So sounds similar time frame as you and hoping we are as lucky as you and get grant back quickly but from what I’ve heard it could be months.

Thanks
Joanna Gloster
Mag Consulting

I have had the same problem - paperwork that was sent to the Harlow Probate Office for 4 or 5 estates is not moving forward, yet an application I sent to a different probate registry had the grant back to me.

Harlow have lost an original Will, IHT205 and statement of truth on an estate and I have gotten nowhere with trying to have them look into it. They insisted I needed to complete a form (which they didn’t send me despite saying they would) and when I eventually received it it clearly said on the top that Legal representatives for PR’s had to submit an affidavit to prove a copy Will. I have done so but the clients are furious as they have agreed a sale on the property (without my knowledge as I would not have advised it) and it needs to complete by the end of November (which is looking very unlikely at this stage) and we are in the firing line for them.

I feel like I am banging my head against a wall trying to get any information from the probate helpline. They are useless whenever I contact them. The whole system is a shambles I have no idea why they changed from the district registries.

Gemma Van Duke
Bishopsgate Law

STEP will be meeting with HMCTS to discuss the online issues and are asking for feedback to policy@step.org by 24 November

Joel Weitzman
The Probate Practice

I have noticed that there is a way of tracking the progress of your matter in that you can see whether your documents and / or the IHT421 have been received. You have to click on the reference number in your case list - it brings up what stages the application has been through. It gives some idea of where your application is at least.

However, I have a matter where they sent me a chasing email for the statement and the original Will but these had been signed for by them over two weeks before. We replied, heard nothing and eventually called them. They said they had received the documents but could not say why the online system had not updated to reflect that. I chased again a couple of weeks later and received a request for the original signed statement, not a photocopy - I have been sending photocopies as requested. Has anyone else had this?

Leanne Bloomfield
Beverley Morris & Co

I have now finally received my probate and it turned up in Birmingham even though I had sent it to Harlow. No one has any idea how it ended up there. The problem I am now experiencing is that if you send your probate application at the same time as you send your IHT 400 to HMRC, the probate application gets stopped and put to the back of the queue. Apparently, you are supposed to submit the IHT400 first and then submit the probate application once 15 days at least has passed. I now have several applications stuck in the system because of this and was told last week they are only up to the mid August. If no one explains to you how the probate registry are managing the applications, how are you supposed to know how the system works. I was sent a link to a helpful handout and attach it to assist

Leah Harper
Windeatts