BTTJ welcomes probate inquiry amidst ever-increasing delays
9th January 2024
Amid an ever-growing wait time for the processing of probate applications, the House of Commons Justice Committee has recently launched a probate inquiry after concerns that delays are spiralling out of control.
Probate involves the identification of all of a deceased persons assets and liabilities the and sharing out the remaining estate according to the Will. Properties cannot be sold, nor money distributed until a formal Grant of Probate has been issued.
The long delays are creating a negative domino effect that is being felt not just by solicitors across the country, but also clients.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic hitting the UK, the standard timescale to process a probate application was 10 working days. However, as a direct result of the application process switching from paper to online forms, as well as the pandemic forcing Probate Registrars to work from home, significant delays ensued.
While the world has since returned to normal, wait times for Grant of Probate applications to be processed have stretched to a minimum of four months.
“The new application process being introduced in early 2020 combined with the Covid-19 pandemic changing the way in which we work, has resulted in a backlog that unfortunately still remains to this day. There was already an underlying delay due to the application process being changed, and the pandemic unfortunately exacerbated this significantly.
Due to such roadblocks being put in place, clients are now being forced to wait months for Grant of Probate applications to be processed. This not only causes issues for solicitors in terms of managing expectations, but also their clients. With probate being required in order to deal with the sale of a property, money or possessions of a person that has died, not only can this be an extremely difficult and sensitive time for beneficiaries but it can potentially land them in hot water by placing them under significant financial strain – especially if they are relying on assets being sold for issues such as repayment of debts of the deceased, whether that be outstanding mortgages or credit card payments.
Whilst applying for Probate is a process individuals can undertake themselves, it is one which can be complex often resulting in families facing unnecessary delays or inheritance tax bills which, with the help of professional advice, could be avoided.
With the timescale already being overly elongated it is vital that people seek out expert advice when applying for Probate, as, if there is an error in the application process, then Probate applicants will run the risk of being pushed to the back of the queue and having to start from square one.
The recent inquiry by the Justice Committee is welcome news as the wait time for Probate has become wholly unsustainable and action needs to be taken in order to mitigate these growing timescales.”
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Article written by Private Client Solicitor Katie Nightingale