STEP met HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) this week, together with The Law Society, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, and Solicitors for the Elderly, to obtain an update on the delays and disruption to the Probate Service in England and Wales.
HMCTS gave us the following update on work undertaken since our last meeting on 27 June.
HMCTS is still receiving 700-800 applications a day from personal applicants and professional applicants.
It has processed 98,000 grants since April and has a backlog of applications from March.
It has increased staffing levels by 20 per cent.
It is striving to get back to its pre-March level of service, which was a 28-day turnaround for personal applicants and ten days for professional applicants.
It acknowledges that performance has not been acceptable but anticipates that delays will reduce over the coming weeks.
HMCTS estimates that approximately 20 per cent of applications from professionals, and 25 per cent of personal applications need to be stopped for a variety of reasons. The most frequent problems are thought to be:
- the IHT421 form has not yet been received;
- not all executors have been accounted for;
- the will has not been included;
- names are spelt incorrectly; and
- the forms have not been correctly signed.
The new online system (see below) will be able to more accurately identify the reasons for the stops and it is hoped this feedback will lead to fewer delays and a more streamlined process.
It is worth noting that when an application is stopped it takes some time for the registry to reconnect the paperwork.
The new online application system for professionals is due to be introduced by the end of October. Users will be able to register their organisation on the website, with no need for an invitation from the registry.
Each organisation will have a single login, to include all those using the service. Organisations will be able to suspend or terminate a person’s access if they are no longer using it.
Once registered, details of applications will be uploaded within 24 hours.
All of the main types of application will be available at launch, although some of the less frequently-used applications make take longer.
HMCTS is encouraging registry staff to communicate via email, rather than post.
The digital pilot will be transferred in early October and launched by the end of the month.
HMCTS’ eventual aim is to digitally interact with HMRC on future applications, to reduce the delays and complications of paper trails.
The implementation of the new probate fee regime is not high on the political agenda, due to continued disruption and the prorogation of parliament.
HMCTS continues to apologise for poor service.