An update in relation to the current position with the Probate Registry.
The last year or so has seen a number of changes for the Probate Registry with the closure of some sub-registries, the threat of more closures, a new computer system and the possible increase in Probate Court fees, which saw a spike in applications to avoid those potentially higher fees. All these issues have meant extended timeframes in terms of how quickly applications and queries were being processed, uncertainty in terms of how applications were now being dealt with and difficulties in being able to contact a Probate Registry over the telephone.
Which Registries are still open?
All of the District Registries are still open. There are future proposals for the closure of some further Sub-Registries but there is no concrete information available about this at the current time. HMCTS has confirmed this will only happen when they are confident it will not adversely impact the service they offer.
The Sub-Registries which are now closed are Stoke-on-Trent, Nottingham, Lincoln, York, Chester, Lancaster, Carlisle, Middlesbrough, Peterborough, Exeter, Gloucester, Leicester, Caernarvon, Carmarthen, Sheffield, Maidstone, Norwich and Bodmin.
Where should solicitors be sending applications to given some Sub-Registries are now closed and with conflicting information available about the District Registries?
Solicitors are able to send their applications to any of the District Registries (Brighton, Cardiff, Liverpool, London, Leeds, Manchester, Oxford, Newcastle and Winchester). At the current time the District Registries are sharing resources, so irrespective of an application being received at a particular Registry it may be that the application will be examined at another Registry or issued from another Registry. It has been confirmed that this does not impact in any way on when the application is submitted as they are dealt with in strict date order of receipt and applications are not delayed or prioritised in any way dependent on whether they received at a specific Registry.
Which Registries are still providing a counter service?
All of the District Registries are now operating an appointment only counter service as of the middle of January 2020. The criteria to obtain an appointment is one of the following types of business:
- Caveat related issues;
- Swearing of affidavits or oaths;
- Viewing or forensic examination of testamentary documents.
There is no counter service or appointments for any other business. So all applications for Grants need to be made either on-line or by post.
What will it look like going forward?
The probate service is becoming a digitally-enabled national service and probate will be handled by the new Courts and Tribunals Service, as part of HMCTS' Reform Programme to modernise Courts and Tribunals.
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