With less than a months’ notice the Government have announced changes to the process of applying for probate in England & Wales. These changes are being brought into effect on the 27th November 2018 by The Non-Contentious Probate (Amendment) Rules 2018).

As this Statutory Instrument has been laid as a negative instrument it requires no Parliamentary consultation and became law on the day the appropriate Minister signed it. Negative instruments can be rejected if a prayer to reject it is agreed by either House, but this is unlikely.

The amended rules will extend the scope of online applications for probate to all unrepresented applicants. This is an extension from the previous scheme introduced by the Non-Contentious Probate (Amendment) Rules 2017 that started allowing online probate applications from personal applicants earlier this year.

The amended rules also allow for all applications to be verified by only a statement of truth rather than an oath. They also remove the requirement for the will and other testamentary documents to be marked by the executors.

Additional changes include extending the powers of district probate registrars to be equivalent to district judges, allowing caveat and standing search applications to be made electronically as well as extending the time limit in the caveat process.

Overall the aim is to make the probate application process smoother and quicker and bring it into the online age. However, as only unrepresented people may make online applications there are some concerns over whether this will discourage people from seeking professional probate advice.

These changes come hot on the heels of the MOJ’s proposal to increase probate application fees and move forward with a new banded structure from next April. This new fee structure would see the minimum probate application fee rise from £215 for individuals, or £155 if made through a solicitor, to £250. The maximum fee will be £6000. No fee will be payable for estates valued under £50,000.

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