Where there’s a will there’s a way

In this article, Graeme Robb, Senior Technical Manager explores the limited circumstances under which the Probate Service now accepts online applications from personal applicants.

Key points
  • Certain criteria must apply
  • England & Wales only
  • Online functionality will continue to be developed
  • Probate trusts can avoid the need for probate in respect of a trustee owned policy
The criteria

The Probate Service now accepts online applications from personal applicants and a small number of pre-selected solicitors based on the criteria below:

  1. applications where up to 4 executors are applying
  2. there is an original will available even if the person who died made up to 4 changes to that will (these changes are known as codicils)
  3. the person who has died classed England and Wales as their permanent home or intended to return to England and Wales to live permanently.

The online application form will continue to be developed to cover a broader range of probate applications in the future.

What the online application provides

The online application form includes:

  • a statement of truth for the applicant to declare that the information provided is correct, which removes the need to swear an oath in person
  • the function to pay the fee online
  • a ‘save and return’ function allowing the applicant to save and revisit an application if   further information is outstanding. This allows a part finished application to be saved and completed later.
Supporting documentation required
  • the original will and two photocopies
  • an official copy of the death certificate
  • the associated inheritance tax forms and figures
  • any other supporting documents relevant to the case (e.g. a renunciation form)

Those who meet the criteria and would like to apply online should contact the HMRC helpline.

Probate trusts

Note that insurance companies might provide Probate Trusts which are designed to speed up the payment of policy proceeds on death by avoiding the need for probate in respect of the trustee owned policy (e.g. an insurance bond).

  • The bond is transferred to trustees during the client’s lifetime.
  • Payments can be made to the beneficiaries (including the settlor) at any time.
  • The trust will continue to the end of the trust period or until all the assets have been distributed.

After the client’s death, the trust can continue or be wound up with the proceeds paid out.

For further information about intergenerational planning and leaving a legacy, take a look at Prudential’s Life Events hub on PruAdviser.


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