On 29 November 2018 Probate was the first jurisdiction in South
transition to CourtSA, the digital platform of the Courts Administration Authority
which runs the State Courts.
Now all Probate applications are conducted electronically using CourtSA.
Put simply, Probate is the formal validation of a Court that a person's will is their last will enabling the executor named in the will to deal with that person's estate after they die. The piece of paper on which details of the Probate are set out is called "the Grant" of Probate.
For over 180 years, applications for Probate had to be done meticulously and officiously by paper, commencing with the lodgement of the person's will coupled with other very formal documents.
For many years South Australia lagged behind the other States in terms of the administration of this area of law, with delays that were not aided by a shortage of Court staff and ageing infrastructure.
There were amendments to the Probate Rules in 2015 which brought about some change, and a queue system where, you could, if you were lucky, successfully get your Grant within a matter of weeks of filing your application, or wait many more weeks if there was something awry (simple errors, or complications) with your application.
There was urgent need for further reform, given the State's age demographic and the virtual tsunami of applications for Probate expected to arrive in the next 15 years.
Clearly, the answer lay in the digital space and simplification of rules, especially in more common, non-litigious cases.
That change has been ushered in with the advent of the CourtSA online Probate Registry.
We are happy to report that we have successfully lodged several applications for Probate on the CourtSA platform already, and have received Grants, issued electronically, within a week of lodgement.
South Australia, which was years behind the other States in this area, is now at the head of the queue!
This means that in most cases you can expect to receive a Grant of Probate within a matter of a few weeks of the death of a loved one, and be able to pay the debts of and distribute the assets within their estate expeditiously and efficiently, whereas in the old system you would have to allow for at least 3 to 6 months to do this, all being well.
New Probate Rules will be announced in 2019, so in the meantime we are making do with transitional rules which apply in the most common and simple cases.
You'd be forgiven to think that with CourtSA it makes the whole process of applying for Probate as straightforward as purchasing concert tickets or organising a holiday overseas online. That's not the case however as CourtSA contains several warnings about legal advice which will usually be necessary for even the simplest cases.
Accordingly, we say "don't try this at home" when it comes to CourtSA and certainly not in the case of more complex applications and instances where there is or the potential for an estate dispute.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.