Let’s imagine for a moment you have belated news that someone died a month ago. This is someone with whom you were friends but later lost touch. You make inquiries and find to your surprise all the money went to a perfect stranger from what others say.
How can you know if the estate was properly administered? You recall the deceased telling you “I’ve left the grand piano and antiques to you because you loved them as a child”. There’s no sign of those fond memories to be seen now. You might be able to protect yourself from probate fraud if you knew how.
How the New Online UK Probate System Could Trip You Up
The Times of London joined the growing outcry among the legal fraternity. Richard Burgon, shadow justice secretary pulled no punches on March 27, 2019. When he insisted, “The government must urgently address concerns that this will be yet another botched outsourcing.
“Another failed project,” he continued “where the public pays the price for the government’s failure to properly consult and the loss of experienced staff.”
The Public and Commercial Services Union representing more than 180,000 civil servants told The Times the deal increases the risk of fraud. “Thousands of years of experience are being lost,” their officials said. It’s getting harder to protect yourself from probate fraud.
“We are concerned that the current model of probate has to change to fit government proposals for a paperless system, a system that they have not consulted upon, our members maintain is not fit for purpose and threatens the integrity of the grant.”
How the Incentive Paid By the Contractor Makes This Worse
We understand the government has outsourced the task of verifying online probate applications to a contractor. This company apparently may be paying its employees a bonus for speedy processing.
The Public and Commercial Services Union strongly believes its members, the legal profession and the public should have been consulted “because this is a judicial process”. However by all accounts the government is pressing ahead with the plan.
How to Find a Will or Probate Document in England and Wales
What follows is a summary of the procedure in England and Wales. (Scotland and Northern Ireland have slightly different systems that you can track on .Gov.UK). New probate records for Wales and England are online within approximately 14 days of issue of grants of representation.
You may therefore be able to protect yourself from probate fraud by accessing the information online. You’ll need to know as much as possible about the following details to avoid wading through pages and pages of results.
# Name, surname and year of death
# Month and day of death
# Year, month and day of probate grant
Once you have the probate documents you can examine them for possible signs of fraud and take appropriate action. If you find the technology challenging there’s a paid search service you may be interested in. This will set you back £10 for a copy of the grant of representation, and the will if it exists.