The Ministry of Justice are proceeding with plans to close down regional probate registries in order to centralise the probate service under one roof.

There are currently 10 sites across England and Wales that are facing closure and some staff at these branches have already been made aware of the Ministry of Justice’s intentions to eventually close down these operations.

The reform comes as part of a wider £1 billion modernisation programme which is aimed at upgrading the courts and tribunal service. The plan is to move all probate services to the Court and Tribunals Service Centre in Birmingham, although it has been confirmed that some administrative based work will be carried out at a secondary site. Government Ministers involved in the decision have insisted that the reform will improve the probate service by pooling shared expertise in one central location.

The news has been greeted with scepticism from many practitioners, especially with the timing of the announcement coming amidst government plans to increase the fees payable to obtain a Grant of Probate. It is viewed that the closing of regional registries will bring an end to the traditional face-to-face service that has long been seen as a requirement when dealing with the difficult time after the death of a loved one. There is also likely to be a knock on effect on litigants in person who will lose access to their local registries and will be forced into using the centralised system alongside practitioners.

A spokesperson for HM Courts & Tribunals Service said:

“that no staff have been put on notice of redundancy and the department is working to ensure it stays that way”

He added:

“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.”

How the closure of the regional probate registries will affect the members of staff working there remains to be seen but it seems certain to cause further worry for those who are applying for probate following the loss of a loved one.

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