Smee & Ford – interim arrangement announced

As many of our readers will be aware, back in January 2019 HMCTS announced that it would be ending its current contract with Smee & Ford, on 31July 2019. Updates on this issue from HMCTS since then have been few and far between and, understandably, this has been met with great concern across the sector with industry experts wondering how HMCTS will replace the current system effectively in the very short timeframe available.

After much anticipation, Susan Acland-Hood, the Chief Executive of HMCTS, published an open letter to charities on Thursday 4 July announcing that, following ongoing consultation with the HMCTS steering group, it has decided that the current arrangement with Smee & Ford will continue on an interim basis until a long term replacement can be established.

HMCTS anticipate that this interim arrangement will continue for at least the next 12 months, while discussions continue as to how to design an appropriate long-term replacement system.

Other changes are also on the way: Ms Acland-Hood noted that the upcoming changes to probate copy fees (in force from 22 July) will mean an increase in operating costs for Smee & Ford, which in turn will require subscribers to Smee & Ford to pay an increased fee for each notification they receive – though they will now receive a copy of the relevant will with each notification too.  Smee & Ford should be contacting customers directly about the implementation of these changes.

A copy of Susan Acland-Hood’s letter can be found here.

Although this latest update is perhaps welcome even if only to inform charities that they are likely to have another 12 months or so to rely on Smee & Ford’s notifications, we understand that the lack of clarity on the long-term replacement system is of concern and that this is a worrying time for legacy professionals. We will be keep you updated on any developments.

This information is necessarily of a general nature and doesn’t constitute legal advice. This is not a substitute for formal legal advice, given in the context of full information under an engagement with Bates Wells.

All content on this page is correct as of July 8, 2019.