Technical glitches and a surge of probate applications have left the Government service with a backlog of probate applications, causing a frustrating delay for the families of people who have recently died.
The HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) came under fire from The Law Society last month, after thousands of UK citizens applying for probate were met with 12-14 week delays.
The Law Society are keeping pressure on the Government to resolve the matter, addressing the issues and calling for better communication for those going through the process.
The Law Society also hit back at Edward Argar MP, who told parliament at the beginning of August that average waiting times for grants in April, May and June were just two, six, and nine weeks respectively. Ian Bond, chair of The Law Society’s wills and equity committee called these figures “disingenuous to say the least”.
Probate Fee Changes
A spike in probate applications came after the Government announced it was increasing the probate fee in November 2018. Once the changes are brought in, The fee will be paid as a sliding scale depending on how much the estate is worth, rather than as a flat fee.
The fee increases were branded by critics as a “stealth tax” and will see the current flat rate charge of £215 rise to a minimum of £250. There will then be a six-band structure which will be determined by the size of the estate being administered. The maximum fee will be £6,000.
The changes, however, have been delayed indefinitely due to parliament focusing on Brexit.
This delay has caused what many are calling a “perfect storm”. There has been a surge of applications in the wake of the fee rise, paired with a drastic overhaul from the Government in relation to probate more generally, involving staff cuts, office closures, new IT systems and changes to work processes.
It was reported in May 2019 that the usual 10-day process had grown to between seven and eight weeks. Now, the delays still continue for the families of the bereaved.
Jonathan Wood, National Services Director at HMCTS, wrote about the delays:
When we first migrated work to one of our new back-office systems we hit teething problems. In the normal run of things it would not have significantly affected our service times for an extended period.
But volumes of applications soared in the spring – more than a 50% increase during March and April compared with usual monthly volumes.
Wood has apologised for the delay, and has stated the online system will make the application process “clearer and simpler”.
The Law Society, and lawyers more generally, continue to put pressure on the Government to fix this issue.
How can Percy Hughes & Roberts help?
While we cannot directly solve the delays that are affecting those applying for probate, our expert solicitors can talk you through what the probate process entails and how to begin. We can also ensure there are no mistakes in the application, which could add more unnecessary delays.
At Percy Hughes & Roberts Solicitors, we have a team of dedicated probate solicitors who are ready to help you resolve your query or issue relating to this area of the law as quickly and effectively as possible.
If you need assistance with obtaining a grant of probate or letter of administration, or simply want advice on dealing with the Probate Registry, our wills, trusts and probate solicitors have a wealth of experience. They can help you through what can be a difficult time, dealing with estate and trust property and complex estates.