Six-month trial will start simple and add new functions to deal with more complex cases
HM Courts & Tribunal Service (HMCTS) has begun a private beta test of a new digital probate service.
The project, announced in March of last year, is part of a broader plan to digitalise much of the courts process, and is aimed at simplifying the process of administering the estate of someone who has recently died.
Paul Downer, service manager at HMCTS, said the trial began in mid-June following a user research exercise that emphasised the need to make the process easier for users, especially as many are carrying it out while in a state of grief.
The private beta trial is expected to run for about six months, with the initial release for simple cases involving one executor, and further functions to be added for more complex cases, such as those involving several executors or when someone dies without leaving a will.
“We’re keen to make applying for probate as quick and easy for the approximately 280,000 applications we receive each year,” Downer said in a blogpost. “We’re simplifying the language and the application process to reduce the pain points we’ve identified as part of our user research activities.
“Changes have also been made to the existing probate application (PA1) paper form so that it’s consistent with the new service.”
It will also enable users to save and return to the application. This is considered to be very important as many people struggle to focus on the process when they are in a state of grief.
The service will also include a new digital Statement of Truth (SoT) - a declaration made by the applicant that the information provided is true at the time of submission. This will remove the current requirement to swear an oath at a probate registry or solicitor’s office.
Future plans include testing an online payment function – until then the system will direct users to paying by cheque – and a review of how probate hearings can be incorporated.
HMCTS has not yet given a ‘go live’ date for a full service, but the digital probate will mark a significant step towards enabling people to carry out more legal processes through internet channels.