Probate service update – July 2022

When to contact HMCTS

We continue to receive feedback from members about waiting times when contacting HMCTS.

Phone lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.

HMCTS confirmed Monday is its peak day and Friday is the quietest.

For a shorter wait time, the best times to contact HMCTS (including via webchat) are 8am to 9am and 5pm to 6pm.

Quieter periods are usually from Tuesday to Thursday, between 8am to 10am and 4pm to 6pm.

(This is subject to demand and resource availability.)

Wait eight weeks

According to analysis, a large number of legal professionals and personal applicants are not waiting for the eight-week timeframe before contacting HMCTS to check their application progress.

HMCTS has said it needs to see what more can be done to stop users from doing this.

Inheritance tax

Waiting for inheritance tax (IHT) documentation remains the biggest stop.

If IHT needs to be paid, you should wait 20 working days before applying for the grant through MyHMCTS.

If you do not wait 20 working days or alter the submission date, there is a high risk your application will be delayed, and a stop created.

Confirmation receipts

There have been reports that some practitioners are still having to contact the CTSC about HMRC confirmation letters related to IHT receipt.

HMCTS has said that in England and Wales, where an IHT421 is issued, a letter is issued to all applicants to say this has been shared with HMCTS.

This letter should be received within 20 working days.

HMRC is interested to hear of examples where confirmation letters have not been received.

‘Ad colligenda bona’ applications

Some concerns had been raised around ‘ad colligenda bona’ applications and HMCTS has committed to handling these.

In order for HMCTS to identify these urgent/exceptional application types, applicants should put “URGENT AD COLLIGENDA BONA” in the subject line of their email, and include:

  • case number
  • deceased details
  • where they sent the application (paper applications submitted to the Newcastle Registry)

HMCTS will call you/the applicant to confirm receipt of the email and application and advise on next steps, including any other information needed.

This will normally be within 48 hours of receiving and validating the application.

In terms of the end-to-end probate journey, HMCTS has identified areas of improvement in the internal case management system to help with saving processing time.

Stopped applications: inheritance tax

HMCTS has started engaging with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) about possibly automating one of the data-sharing processes which could help improve IHT stop rates.

Documents required

HMCTS is looking at expanding its management information so that it can establish the types of documents required.

This should allow HMCTS to determine what enhancements to make and share the necessary comms with practitioners.

Missing documents

HMCTS has made changes for practitioners to make sure the checklist is more dynamic. It’s currently tracking the changes to see what benefits they bring.

Redesigning forms PA1A and PA1P

HMCTS has finished user testing with personal applicants. It hopes the forms will be ready to use by the end of 2022.

The aim is to make the forms easier to use, including:

  • expanding the checklist to reduce delays
  • introducing more questions around will condition

Our members have been reviewing the forms and providing feedback on the questions, layout and guidance. The feedback will also be used to help plan future improvements to the online service.

Next steps

We’re due to have our next meeting in September.

If you have any queries or suggestions on the probate service that you would like us to raise with HMCTS, email [email protected].

HMCTS is looking into running a webinar on the changes/improvements made to the service which all probate practitioners will be able to access.

About the probate group

We meet regularly to discuss probate service issues with:

  • HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS)
  • STEP Society (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners)
  • Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales
  • Institute of Legacy Management

Take a look at our update from the March 2022 meeting

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