Is It Ok To Do Probate Online?

There have been changes in recent years in the way executors, will administrators and solicitors are able to apply for probate.  Since 2017, it has been possible to apply for probate online via a digital service that was launched by HM Courts and Tribunal Services (HMCTS). 

Initially, the service was only available for executors of a deceased’s estate as long as they were acting on their own, and they had a copy of the deceased’s will. It was later expanded to include applications from solicitors, including more complex estates.  Indeed, since October 2020, the online probate service has considerably expanded their services, including applications by legal professionals for intestacy and letters of administration.

The coronavirus pandemic over the past 18 months has driven a significant rise in the number of online probate applications.  People are now able to apply for probate online quickly and easily, but how do you apply for probate online?

Who applies for probate online?

If there is a will, an executor or executors will have been named and it is their role to administer the deceased’s estate and apply for probate.  The executor(s) can be a family member, a trusted friend of the deceased or family, or a solicitor.  If there is more than one executor, the application for probate online should include all their names. 

Only the executor(s) of the deceased’s estate can apply for a Grant of Probate.  If there is no executor, the deceased’s next of kin or a close relative must apply for a grant of letters of administration in order to handle the estate.

If there is not a will, and therefore no executor(s), the deceased’s next of kin or a close relative must apply for authority to administer the deceased’s estate.  They will need to apply for a ‘grant of letters of administration’ which allows them to deal with probate, and they will then become the administrator for the estate.

There are other circumstances where letters of administration are required:

  • You have left the entire estate;
  • There are no executors named in the will;
  • The executors are not prepared to accept the role.

The digital probate service

Launched in 2017, the online probate service allows people to apply for a grant of probate, saving time on many of the legal processes.  However, you will still need to send actual copies of the relevant paperwork, including the death certificate and the deceased’s will. But the statement of truth can be done online – executors no longer have to visit the probate office to swear their oath – and payment of the probate fees can be done electronically.

Solicitors are also now allowed to apply for probate online.  The legal profession can also apply for intestacy or grant of letters of administration as part of a will annexed application.  It is also possible to stop a grant of probate being issued, known as a caveat, through the online probate service.

The online probate service allows executors, administrators and solicitors to view their probate applications and forms on a dashboard, as well as monitor their probate process.  According to HMCTS, the only documentation that needs to be sent to them is the original will, a copy of the death certificate and the Inheritance Tax forms.

To use the online probate service, you will need to open a Pay By Account (PBA) account which links you with HMCTS’s fee account system to pay for your online probate application.  Once registered as an executor, you will be able to start your online probate application.

What do I need and when do I apply for probate online?

Once the death has been officially registered (which is within five days), apply for probate online within six months of the death.  This is because there is a time limit on paying HMRC any Inheritance Tax that may be due.  In practice, reporting the value of an estate to HMRC and applying for probate online is usually done at the same time to avoid any delays.

Before you start your probate online application, report the value of the deceased’s estate to HMRC first.  Then get together the following documents as these will need to be sent to HMCTS:

  • The original will of the deceased together with any codicils (small additions to the will).  It is recommended you have at least two copies of the will and codicils.  Complete form PA1P if there is a will; if not, complete form PA1A.
  • The death certificate, or an interim certificate
  • HMRC’s Inheritance Tax form (IHT205) even if Inheritance Tax is not due. Ensure you complete the correct form for HMRC.

When there isn’t any Inheritance Tax due, form IHT205 should be completed if:

  • The estate’s value is £325,000 or less (known as an Excepted Estate)
  • The estate’s value is less than the Excepted Estate limit of £650,000.  However, there has to be a claim to transfer the entire nil band rate from a wife, husband or civil partner that died first, and their allowance wasn’t used.
  • The estate’s value is less than £1 million but no Inheritance Tax is due as the estate is being passed on to a surviving wife, husband or civil partner, or it is a charity exemption.

How much does it cost to apply for probate online?

Once you have had the deceased’s estate valued and reported this to HMRC, you can apply for a grant of probate online.  You will need to pay a fee of £215, which can be done online through HMCTS’s service when you submit your application.  If the value of the estate is lower than £5,000, HMCTS waive this fee.

It is advisable to order copies of your grant of probate as they will be needed during the process of administering the deceased’s estate.  There is a cost for this at around 50p per copy.

At Probates Online, we are able to offer a professional probate service online that is efficient and affordable.  If you are an executor of a will and need to apply for a Grant of Probate or would like to take advantage of our entire Estate Administration service, visit our website for more information or contact us today.