On 15 April 2020, HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) wrote to probate practitioners to explain its temporary working arrangements during coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions.

Key changes will impact the following areas:

  • accepting statements of truth in place of affidavits
  • signing / witnessing renunciations and powers of attorney
  • Statutory Instrument 2020 No 33: Administration of Estates Act 1925 (Fixed Net Sum) Order
  • probate practitioner forms and electronic signatures.

Accepting statements of truth in place of affidavits

Statements of truth can be accepted in place of affidavits in the following circumstances:

  • identity of executor
  • misrecital of date of will in codicil (if rectification not required under Section 20 of the Administration of Justice Act 1982)
  • Rule 41 – amendment of grant
  • Rule 41 – revocation of grant
  • Rules 30(1) (a),(b) and (c)
  • Rule 35(4)
  • Rule 13 (knowledge of content of will)
  • Rule 14 (alterations in will)
  • Rule 15 (attempted revocation of will)

 HMCTS is awaiting further advice on accepting statements of truth in applications under rules which specify evidence must be submitted by affidavit.

On 17 April, Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of our Family Division, issued guidance for non-contentious probate cases.

Guidance on signing / witnessing renunciations and powers of attorney

Documents including renunciations and powers of attorney which are required to be signed as a deed before a disinterested witness may be effected in the usual way using any method of signing / witnessing that can be achieved under the safe distancing measures as provided by the government.

HMCTS would not look beyond any document that is submitted which is signed and witnessed in the usual way including the use of electronic signatures.

Increased fixed net sum for administering estates

 The fixed net sum for spouses and civil partners of persons who have died after 6 February 2020 without leaving a will has been increased to £270,000.

This is under Statutory Instrument 2020 No 33: the Administration of Estates Act 1925 (Fixed Net Sum) Order.

If you have been issued with a grant of letters of administration since 6 February 2020 and you think the entitlement to the estate may have been affected, you are advised not to administer the estate.

Probate practitioner forms and electronic signatures

Practitioners have asked HMCTS whether the new forms are for use by practitioners and personal applicants to clarify these forms will become a combined form for use by both at the end of the transitional period. These forms will be uploaded as a combined form on to gov.uk at this stage and we will write to inform you of these changes in due course.

The links to the relevant paper forms to use now are as follows: