EW probate delays and disruption: an update

Emily Deane TEPSTEP met HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) this week, together with The Law Society 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 14 May:

  • It has taken on 30 new staff since the transfer to the new system.
  • It currently has 180 employees working across the Probate Service.
  • It has recruited additional legal advisors with probate experience.
  • The registry with the most significant backlog is Winchester, which is sharing its work with other registries.
  • HMCTS is issuing approximately 20,000 grants a month, of which 12-13,000 are from practitioners
  • It is dealing with grants in date order, oldest first.
  • It does not prioritise grants according to urgency, and will not deal with applications more quickly by request.
  • It is entering caveats into the system on the day of receipt.
  • It will not refund probate fees due to delay.
  • It will issue grants of probate in approximately six to eight weeks.

STEP’s request for waived interest, or longer timeframe

STEP is aware that the delays are making it difficult for members to pay IHT on estates, since they cannot gain access to funds until the grants have been issued.

STEP has asked HMCTS to consult with HMRC on this issue, to see if it will waive the interest accrued on outstanding IHT, or permit a longer timeframe for paying by instalments. We stressed that this would help ease some of the time pressure and negligence concerns of our members, and generate some much-needed goodwill.

HMCTS anticipates that once its new digital system is up and running, there will be less scope for administrative and human error. Users will be able to track applications and make corrections online.

It will continue to accept paper applications for those less able to deal with applying online.

  • HMCTS is holding a webinar to demonstrate the new online system for professional users on 4 July.

STEP will be meeting HMCTS again in August for a further briefing.

Emily Deane TEP, STEP Technical Counsel

2 thoughts on “EW probate delays and disruption: an update

  1. 1. 6-8 weeks is laughable. We have grants going back to February still not received back.
    2. They are not dealing with these in date order. The very few we had back this week are not in date order in any way shape or form.
    3. Thankfully, they are prioritising grants according to urgency – specifically around property sales.
    4. I cannot see how they are issuing 20,000 grants a month. We have 175 outstanding with them. Going on date order, 6-8 weeks to issue and 20,000 a month we should have had the majority of these back by now. We haven’t.

    Can I assume that you challenged these points?

    Did you ask the more pertinent question of HMCTS about whether they will confirm that when the new probate fees are applied, post them sorting this mess out we assume, that they will apply relative to the date of death and not to the date of application?

    1. We believe HMCTS were saying that if you apply now, they should be able to issue grants within 6-8 weeks. If you have received grants not in date order, it is most likely that they were sent to other registries to help with the backlog.

      We reinforced that the fee implementation date should be amended to date of death rather than application, and HMCTS confirmed that they have referred this point to the MoJ for their consideration – as have STEP directly. However, it is still uncertain when the new fee regime will be implemented with the continued disruption in parliament.

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