Back in May 2019, we wrote about how probate registries in England and Wales were suffering from processing delays on Grant of Probate and Grant of Letter of Administration applications. We’re now a couple of months down the line and the backlog continues. Therefore, we wanted to provide our clients and business partners with another update.
The delays originally came after the rollout of a new IT case management system which dramatically slowed down processing applications. Despite government claims that the issues with the IT system have now been resolved, Executors, Administrators and estate administration providers are still waiting for Grants to be issued.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said:
“Our new online service is making probate simpler and more convenient for bereaved people. Some grants are experiencing delays of two to four weeks and we are working hard to bring waiting times down further. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
A Grant of Probate or Grant of Letter of Administration gives an Executor or Administrator the authority to act in the administration of a deceased person’s estate. Therefore, the delays have left those responsible unable to progress with the administration of estates.
The Law Society Gazette reported that before the delays, Grants were being issued within seven to 10 working days. However, people are now reportedly suffering from delays of up to 13 weeks.
Simon Hart, MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, posed a written question to the Secretary of State for Justice: “what assessment has been made of the level of delays in the granting of probate as a consequence of the transition to the new online probate system.” On 18 June 2019, Paul Maynard, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, responded “Urgent action has been taken to address the delays which have been experienced in the probate service. Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service is increasing staffing levels and further improving the digital service to help reduce waiting times.”
At Kings Court Trust, we are doing everything we can to lessen the impact of the delays on those who have entrusted us to take care of their estate administration. We are frequently communicating with the Probate Registries to understand their current position and to progress our applications as quickly as possible. We have also been lobbying the Ministry of Justice and the Chief Executive of HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) urging them to take this matter seriously.
In a recent webinar we attended about the reform of HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS), it was revealed that the probate registries are working very hard to catch up with the backlog. They’ve added around 30 members of staff, plus additional legal experts. They’ve advised those awaiting Grants to avoid calling wherever possible as this will slow down the process.
Additionally, the webinar shared new information about the government’s plans to close local probate registries and move the work to just one central location in Birmingham, as announced in April 2019. It was revealed that the reform will improve the accessibility to probate registries by centralising all calls into Birmingham. This means that HMCTS will be able to marshal the skills and knowledge into a single point, and manage the consistency of response both in knowledge and in speed of service. Plus, the system will also allow professionals to check for updates on their Grants so that they will no longer need to call the registry.
We remain committed to providing our families and business partners with updates as to the backlogs as and when we receive them.
Kings Court Trust are estate administration specialists and our legal and tax teams have the expertise to advise on any situation. If you have any questions about the estate administration process, call our Client Services Team on 0300 303 9000 or click here to get in touch.