The Ministry of Justice has initiated a programme of closing down regional probate registries and moving the service under one roof.
It is understood that some staff at the 10 remaining sites across England and Wales have been told of intentions to scale back their operations and eventually close down the sites.
These changes come as part a wider modernisation programme costing £1bn to upgrade the courts and tribunals service. It is hoped the service will be improved by bringing together shared expertise.
There is however a concern amongst practitioners that the changes will lead to a removal of face-to-face service for work that often requires familiarity with and trust in those administering it. Questions are being raised asked about why probate services are being cut when the government plans to increase fees.
The eventual plan is to move probate services to the Courts and Tribunals Service Centre in Birmingham, with some administrative work taking place at a second site. A spokesperson for HM Courts & Tribunals Service said that no staff have been put on notice of redundancy and the department is ‘working hard to ensure it stays that way’.
Documents issued last year by the judiciary revealed court reforms could result in the loss of 6,500 jobs by 2022.
Meanwhile, the proposals to create a banded structure for probate fees, based on the size of the estate, remain uncertain due to the current Brexit-related turmoil in parliament. Under the proposed scheme estates worth £2m or more would pay £6,000 instead of £155.
The new fee structure is expected to bring in additional income of £145m in the next financial year and is seen as a ‘stealth tax’.
When the new fee structure comes in, it will be difficult for many families to navigate along with negotiating Inheritance Tax and the different allowances available and there will be further delays in applying for probate, when district registries close, which you must do before being able to administer the estate and cash in assets.
How we can help
Contact Laura Stansfield, Sue Darlington or Susanne Furness in our Wills, Probate & Planning for the Future department to discuss how one of our team of experts can help guide you through this process.
Tel: 0161 330 6821
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.