Applying for probate using MyHMCTS and GOV.UK

January 19, 2024

Deputy Service Manager at HMCTS, Stephen Burgess has accumulated a wealth of experience in his 25+ years working in Probate. In the first of two posts he explains the application process for citizens and solicitors.

I’ve been through the probate process and, even with my background, I know that when you visit a bank to find out what they need and what the processes are, it’s a bit daunting. That’s why we’re doing all we can to make applications as user-friendly as possible.

Overall, there are two ways to apply for probate. A citizen who has been named as an executor or administrator can apply for probate, or it can be done via a solicitor.

Citizen applications

For people, with access to an online device, applications can be made on GOV.UK. We’ve done a lot of work in the past few years to improve the service to support people through the process.

The process begins with eligibility questions and then applicants create an account where they’re asked a series of questions about the deceased, such as name, date of birth and date of death. There will also be questions about inheritance tax, the size of the estate and about the will and executors.

Applicants don’t need to send in a death certificate because we’ve automated checks with the Home Office to verify a death. It’s a good example of how different government departments can share information to make life easier for people. If all’s in order, the applicant submits the application, and they receive a cover sheet with a reference number. We then ask for supporting documents, such as the will, to be sent to us.

When we receive the documents, an officer carries out checks to make sure the document is original and hasn’t been damaged and it’s then uploaded to our case management system.

On average, it probably takes applicants five to seven days to get documents to us.  Applications appear in date order on our system, we work from the oldest case to the newest and our management team monitor the entire system closely to assess performance.

Solicitor applications

Solicitors applying for probate must use MyHMCTS, our dedicated platform for probate professionals. It’s a very similar process with similar questions, although it includes details about them as a solicitor and if they’re the person making the application. If all the details are correct, they submit the application and can pay on account, a service that exists for solicitors or by credit card. Once their application is on MyHMCTS it’s treated the same way as citizen applications.

Paper applications

We still deal with paper applications, for example, applications in respect of a foreign will, or a second grant for the same estate. Citizens who don’t want or can’t apply online can still complete a paper application form which should be sent to our scanning office.

Our end goal is to expand GOV.UK to allow more digital applications. Once the applications are scanned, they go onto our case management system. It’s the same process as a digital application, it just takes a bit longer.

Next month we’ll share the second part of Stephen’s blog where he’ll explain some of the common issues that lead to applications being temporarily paused and how the service is improving.


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