The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has introduced a new digital service that allows consumers to apply for probate online. This is part of a billion-pound reform to modernise the justice system.
You can use the new online service to enter the necessary information, sign a ‘statement of truth’ and make any required payment. However, at present, it can only be used in certain circumstances when the following criteria are met:
- You must have the death certificate;
- The deceased must have permanently lived in England & Wales, or if they did not, have shown an intention to return;
- The deceased must have left a Will;
- You must be in possession of the original Will (not a photocopy);
- You need to be named as an executor within that Will;
- If there is more than one executor, they must all be of sound mind; and
- You must have already completed the Inheritance Tax documents.
If any of the of the above criteria are not met, you will not be able to apply for probate online. However, it is understood that this service will be gradually developed to allow for all circumstances.
As more of these services go online and become increasingly accessible to the general public, it should be remembered that they should not be regarded as a substitute for taking specialist legal advice. Being an executor is not always an easy job and they’re often exposed to certain risks when making applications for probate, particularly when it comes to dealing with taxable estates, applying for the relevant reliefs and discounts or where the residue is left to charities. Any errors in tax documents which lead to the underpayment of any tax due can be met with fines and penalties issued by HMRC. If the estate has already been distributed when this error comes to light, the executor could quickly find themselves personally liable for the shortfall. At the same time, should too much tax be paid, you might find yourself in hot water with the beneficiaries and have to go through the inconvenience of re-submitting the documentation.
Slee Blackwell Solicitors have a long history of assisting people across England & Wales obtain probate, whether they’re straightforward or the most complex of estates. Should you require any assistance in administering an estate, please contact us. We can often offer a fixed fee for our work and can tailor our services to provide advice and guidance on specific issues if you would prefer to deal with the remaining aspects yourself. Call us on 0333 888 0404 or email us at [email protected]