MOJ office closures likely to affect probate cases

Posted Apr 16, 2019.
In a move likely to impact on those responsible for sorting out an individual’s property and financial affairs when they die, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has recently commenced a programme of closures for regional probate offices.

Probate offices issue grants of probate and grants of letters of administration and are also known as Probate Registries. The MOJ’s decision to close regional offices is part of a wide-ranging £1bn programme of upgrades and modernisation of the UK’s courts and tribunal service. Whilst the MOJ is confident that the closures and subsequent centralisation of the probate service will improve both efficiency and quality of service, many legal professionals dealing with wills and probate have voiced concerns, in particular around the resultant lack of face to face contact which can often be an important factor in more complex probate cases. 

The MOJ’s plan involves centralising the probate service at the Courts and Tribunals Service Centre in Birmingham. A spokesman for the service centre said:

“Courts and Tribunals Service Centres are a key part of our £1 billion Reform Programme and will ensure we deliver better services for all court users. As we move work to the first two CTSCs, staff in existing centres will need to be moved into new roles. These changes will be gradual and our priority is to support employees throughout the process and help them find suitable, alternative roles.”

Probate fees will still increase

The cuts in physical probate offices comes at the same time as the government proposals to increase probate fees, moving from a fixed fee structure to a new model based on the size of the deceased’s estate. The government estimates that the new fee structure, implementation of which is currently on hold due to the ongoing Brexit disruptions, is likely to bring in an extra £145m in fee income over the following year. The new fee structure has been widely criticised as a ‘stealth tax’ on the bereaved, with fees raised being used to fund other parts of an overall underfunded courts and tribunal service. 


Professional advice for wills and probate

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