The government has launched a new online probate service which promises to save time and make more convenient the whole legal process of gaining legal authority to deal with a deceased person’s estate.
The official announcement on the start of the service was made on the 17th of January 2019.
Probate is the technical term for the legal authority you must be granted in order to act as the executor of a deceased’s estate – namely, to make and receive payments on behalf of the estate and distribute the assets in accordance with any will.
By its very nature, the potentially complicated process comes at a time when many executors are already struggling to deal with the emotional fallout of grieving for the loss of a loved one and family member.
In addition to the emotional strain, probate may also take a long time to complete. Law on the Web explains that the time it takes depends on the complexity of the estate and the hours you are able to dedicate to your duties as executor. The average length of time is between six and nine months, but complications or omissions (such as the deceased keeping incomplete records of his or her assets) might end up with the process taking years to resolve.
The duties and responsibilities of an executor are onerous – and you may be sued by beneficiaries of the estate for failings in those duties.
If property is included in the assets of the estate, for example, it falls to the executor to ensure that adequate protection is in place at all times to safeguard the property against loss or damage.
Of course, that means ensuring that suitable property insurance – house insurance during probate – is arranged. This is specialist cover which recognises that ownership of the property remains subject to probate and that there may be times when it is especially vulnerable if no one is living there.
The need for house insurance during probate – and what it covers – is discussed in more detail in our product page describing the insurance.
Online probate service
With the burden of responsibility, the complexity of some probate cases, and the length of time it might take to resolve some issues, the introduction of an online probate service is certain to be welcomed by those who take on the duties and obligations of an executor.
An online service which allows executors to apply for probate, swear the required statement of truth, and pay probate fees promises to make the whole process simpler, more straight forward and less time-consuming.
The introduction of an online service may also help to take the sting out of the general increase in probate fees which was introduced with effect from May of 2017.
The article in our Knowledge Base dated the 7th of March of that year set out the scale of proposed fees, based on the value of the estate.
Since then, Parliament has been considering further revisions and currently proposes fees ranging from £250 for estates worth between £50,000 and £300,000, to £6,000 for estates worth more than £2 million.
The proposals have received the consent of the House of Lords (on the 18th of December 2018) but, at the time of writing, await approval by the House of Commons.