It’s finally happened, and in our lifetimes according to Hodge, Jones and Allan in North Gower Street, London. Their elegantly sombre building on Bloomsbury Boulevard links Bedford Square and Euston Road, so just perfect for pondering over probate.
The Duke of Bedford somewhat improved the brick stucco facade after Victorian art critic John Ruskin pilloried it for being “the nec plus ultra of ugliness in British architecture.” Not to be outdone the Probate Registry is improving its act by finally, going digital.
A Major Departure from Tradition That May Have Old Timers Reeling
Since time immemorial – well at least a hundred years ago a District Registrar or a Probate Officer had to personally sign a Grant of Probate and emboss it with a stamp. This distinctly retro approach de-streamlined the process.
Now the UK government is escalating probate fees it clearly has good cash flow reasons to speed things up. Therefore it has finally decided to turf embossing stamps into the bottom desk drawer and enter the 20th century (slip intended). Senior members of the City of London Society may have a fresh attack of gout when they discover
# New style grants will have a high security hologram
# They will also have a digital seal and signature
# Interested parties can phone to validate these
We Wonder What Will Happen to Those Embossing Stamps
Embossing dates way back to when British sovereigns poured warm wax onto documents, and marked them with their signet rings as stamps of approval.
Things became hectic as the Empire spread. Kings and Queens delegated their duties to trusted assistants by awarding them coveted embossing stamps.
Will these archaic relics stay in bottom drawers in Probate offices or eventually land in dust bins? We’d prefer someone in authority defaces them first to eliminate the possibility of retrofitted fraud.
On the other hand perhaps we should keep them as a backup. You never know what could happen next with that distinctly un-British thing, ransomware.
Back to Basics, What Happens Next at the Probate Office?
We hope the innovation reduces piles of Probate Grants awaiting approval. At the same time we expect District Registrars and Probate Officers to maintain their high standards that merit international respect.
In return we hope to see greater efficiency in the office. Hodge, Jones and Allan let slip Her Majesty’s Probate Office is investigating blockchain to stage events in chewable bytes.
However it will take a while for wills and final testaments to join the new order. The Wills Act 1937 still reigns supreme as Queen Victoria once did. It would not be amused at all by documents not in writing, not signed the old-fashioned away, and not dittoed by two witnesses present in person.
At the end of the day we are confident the new Grant of Probate system will work a treat. We believe it’s the quality of the input that matters most. The final ‘rubber stamp’ of whatever kind is just that, a rite of passage.
Modern monarchs should only need to scan the documents briefly before they press their enter keys. That’s because they ought to know their subordinates are worthy of their trust.