Statement of Truth in Probate Matters

To swear an oath evokes images of a Victorian court room, maybe as part of the interminable Chancery case of Jarndyce v Jarndyce in Dickens’ Bleak House. Traditionally, oaths are sworn on a holy book; the implication being that the deponent is unlikely to risk his eternal soul by admitting a false statement.

The only time most people actually come across oaths is during an application for probate. Until very recently, the only way to obtain a grant of probate was for the administrator to swear (or in more recent times “affirm”) an oath. This occurred in front of a solicitor or at a Probate Registry and all parties had to “mark” (sign) the will of the deceased.

However, all that is set to change as the Probate Registries slowly move into the 21st century.

Plans are afoot to replace the archaic practice of swearing or affirming an oath. Instead, administrators will be able to apply for probate using a statement of truth which will just need to be signed, not sworn. Also, there will be no need to mark the will.

This is part of a raft of measures announced last November to simplify applications for probate and enable online submissions.

Template statements of truth are beginning to circulate and it is likely that the new procedure will become the “norm” over the coming year; a welcome simplification at a time when many lay administrators are grieving the loss of a loved one.