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HMCTS to build GOV.UK Pay into digital probate service

Neil Merrett Published 06 July 2017

Common platform under development by GDS will be incorporated into new digital service that seeks to simplify application process for solicitors and members of the public


HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is working to include an online payment function in its new online probate service that uses the GOV.UK Pay platform.

The digital service, which is currently in private beta and designed to support both personal applicants and solicitors, is expected to start commencing tests on handling payments for users over the next few months. Transactions are currently being made by cheque.

As the basis for these payments, HMCTS has confirmed that the GOV.UK Pay common platform will be used to support the technology and other public facing services that are in development.

Online payments are among a number of functions that are being added to the digital probate service as part of an agile process of research and amendments with the aim of meeting more complex user needs.

In a blog post, HMCTS service manager Paul Downer, who is responsible for the online service’s development, said that his team were continuing with user research to better meet different requirements.

“Our research to date has highlighted that solicitors’ have different needs dependent on the size of the firm and their experience in dealing with probate applications,” he said. “We want to use the results from this work to reduce the number of returned applications from solicitors by updating our guidance and communications. We’ll also review how probate hearings can be incorporated.”

With the service entering private beta last month, downer said the intention for ongoing testing was to increase the number applicants and the complexity of their needs as part of an agile development process.

Although initially focused on more simples cases, such as where one executor has been named and an original will is available, the intention is for the service to handle cases of multiple executors in future.

As part of wider ambitions, Downer said the service would seek to implement a log-in function to allow users to save and return to incomplete applications. 

According to the blog, a ‘digital Statement of Truth (SoT)’ is included in the service to serve as a declaration that information submitted by the applicant is true, removing a need to swear an oath.  The digital SoT is intended to cut time travelling to a solicitor or a Probate Registry.

With the probate service project commencing in April 2016, Downer noted that user research had already underlined a number of key development concerns, such as clarifying whether users need to apply for probate, as well as what sort of documents are needed to support an application.

The research also highlighted the number of users of the service that were vulnerable or in a state of grief may make understanding legal jargon and more complex language.

He said that in order to improve the processing of an average 280,000 applications received each year, work was underway to simplify language used on the service, as well as the wider application process.  The private beta stage of the project is currently expected to last for a further five months.

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