Long Delays in the Probate Registry

We are continuing to see long delays at the Probate Registry. When we submit an application for probate, the usual turnaround time has usually been around 2 weeks. The recent delays, however, have seen applications taking up to 12 or 13 weeks.

We have been told that the delays have come about due to an unusually large backlog caused by a significant influx of probate applications in March and April this year.

The delays were discussed in the House of Lords on 12 June 2019, during which Lord Keen noted that there had been a 22% increase in the volume of applications in March and April, most probably because people were concerned that the proposed hike in probate fees was going to be introduced in April 2019. In fact, the fees increase has not yet been implemented because of a lack of parliamentary time.

The implementation of a new IT system to make it possible to submit probate applications online has also caused problems. The Ministry of Justice has stated that there have been problems both with the Probate Registry’s new software, and also their printing systems.

The Law Society has already raised concerns that the Ministry of Justice has not sufficiently increased resource in the Probate Registries to enable the backlog to be cleared, and that the problem may worsen in the summer months due to staff taking leave, so it looks like the misery is set to continue for quite a while longer.

The impact of the ongoing delays is that estates are taking much longer to administer. This means that there will be delays in estate creditors being paid, and for beneficiaries to receive their entitlements. This will also cause difficulties for charity beneficiaries, who are reliant on legacy income.

It is a particular problem where property sales have been agreed, as a Grant of Probate is required in order to exchange contracts. Whilst the Probate Registries are able to expedite grant applications where a property sale was agreed before the owner died, applications where the sale was agreed after the date of death are not considered to be urgent by the Probate Registries. There is therefore a real risk that property sales will fall through in cases where buyers lose patience waiting for probate to be obtained.

As solicitors, we have been advised not to contact the Probate Registries to chase up our applications, which is adding to everyone’s frustration. Having to deal with chasing telephone calls, emails and letters simply runs the risk of taking registry staff away from issuing Grants of Probate, which will only slow them down further.

Instead, it is recommended that we make all the parties involved in an estate fully aware of the delays, and keep everyone updated.

Get in Touch

If you have concerns about an estate which involves you or your family, or have any questions about obtaining a Grant of Probate, please contact Jane Whitfield at Barrett & Co at jane.whitfield@barrettandco.co.uk or on 0118 958 9711.

Further Reading:

What is Probate?

Windfall for the Ex-Carer of an Elderly Widow

J.R.R. Tolkien and Literary Executors

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