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Probate News, issue 14

This issue contains an update on the probate applications process, information on the 2021 probate diversity survey and helpful tips on how to avoid common client complaints.

Online probate applications by probate professionals to be mandated

The Government has published the outcome of its consultation on the mandation of online probate applications by probate professionals including ICAEW accredited probate practitioners.

As expected the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has decided to go ahead with mandatory online applications by probate professionals but has also agreed that:

  1. Grants of letters of administration will not be mandated – for the time being
  2. Some complex and non-standard applications will be exempt .These include applications to prove a copy of a will when the original has been lost and applications for rectification of a will. A full list of these exemptions will appear in a Schedule to the Statutory Instrument for the next set of rule changes.

The new rules come into force on 2 November 2020. There will be a grace period until 30 November 2020, during which paper applications will still be accepted.

How to prepare and register for the online service

To use the online service your firm will need to have registered to process payments via HMCTS Fee Account (also known as ‘Payment by Account’).

If you are certain that your firm has not yet registered, you can register online. Please read the registration guidance fully before beginning your application.

The HMCTS online services for legal professionals provides additional guidance on how to use the online probate service.

Common client complaints and how to avoid them

In its recently published overview of annual complaints data 2019/20, the Legal Services Ombudsman (Leo) has provided some helpful data about the complaints it receives and how firms can avoid them.

Probate Transparency

We published our Best Practice Guide to Price and Service Transparency in June 2019 and are reviewing take-up of the Guide this autumn.

At this stage, the recommendations of the Best Practice Guide are voluntary. However, after the autumn 2020 review is completed, the ICAEW Regulatory Board will consider whether the voluntary approach is making sufficient progress to achieve the CMA’s objectives or whether the best practice principles will need to be mandated and embedded into the probate regulations.

To help you assess your firm, we have summarised our transparency benchmarking report. Please read through the summary to identify where your firm can improve on cost and service transparency.

2021 Probate Diversity Survey: Free reporting tool available to our firms

All firms accredited for probate services are required to collect, report and publish diversity data about their employees. While this is a regulatory requirement, there are many benefits to focusing on diversity and inclusion. The next survey is due to take place in March 2021.

ICAEW’s probate accredited firms will have free access to an online diversity reporting tool which will collect, collate and anonymise their 2021 probate diversity information.

Note firms will still need to submit the summary data report generated by the software to ICAEW, as usual.

A live webinar will take place in early February, which will include a demonstration of the reporting tool and the option to ask questions on the process.

Further information on the 2021 survey, the online tool and how to register for the webinar will be sent to all probate firms in the next few weeks.

Talk Probate

Please note Talk Probate has moved to the announcements section of icaew.com/probatenews.

Past content on Talk Probate will still be accessible by viewing the archived site.

Regulatory News

Access a summary of all the latest regulatory updates by visiting icaew.com/regulatorynews.

Duty to report misconduct: New Guidance effective 1 October 2020

All ICAEW members have a duty to report misconduct, matters that, if unreported, could adversely affect the reputation of ICAEW or the profession as a whole.

New Guidance contains examples of the issues members need to flag, and details when and how to make a report.