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Applying for probate online should be treated with caution

by Tracey Heath

Published on 23rd January 2019

A new online system for applying for probate has been launched – but it won’t suit everybody.Applying for probate online

HM Courts and Tribunals Service announced the roll out of the online system with the comment that “for most people, a visit to a probate registry or solicitor’s office is no longer needed”.

But we would strike a note of caution – if a deceased person’s estate is subject to inheritance tax then an executor should seek professional advice because, ultimately, the executor is personally liable for any errors made in the administration of the estate.

Applying for probate online

The new probate application system, which has been tested by invited users since 2017, is now available to most named executors in England and Wales. It allows up to four joint applicants to apply, pay and swear a statement of truth online.

The online service can be used if the deceased was a permanent resident in England or Wales, if the applicant has the original will and is named as an executor, and for up to four joint applicants. Future developments will include the ability to apply for letters of administration in cases of intestacy.

All applicants will need to agree with the legal declaration and their names will appear on the grant of probate. It costs £215 to apply for probate if the value of the estate is more than £5,000. It’s free if the value is less.

HMCTS chief executive Susan Acland-Hood, said: “I am delighted we are now able to offer this new, simpler way of doing probate to the public at large. It is part of the work we’re doing to make the justice system easier to navigate for everyone.”

At Optimum, we welcome the idea of anything that will help people have easier access to the justice system, but we would add a word of caution. Where there are complications in the estate, or estates where inheritance tax will be liable, then seeking professional advice is essential.

The same applies where a beneficiary is a charity, as there are complexities in the law relating to charitable estates which a lay person could not be expected to know or understand.

At Optimum, we are always happy to advise and assist clients – please do get in touch for a no obligation chat.

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