HMCTS Confirm Probate Application Process Exceeding 30 Working Days

Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) confirm that the average time to process an application for probate is currently taking over 30 working days.

HMCTS have been under intense scrutiny recently as a flock of updated initiatives and changes to protocols have overwhelmed their new systems.

The Law Society sought explanations on the current situation and looked for answers on how the escalating issues will be resolved.

In reference to recent delays, which has seen applications for a grant of probate increase from the average 10 days to over 12 weeks in some cases, HMCTS officials have flagged the move from case management system Probate Man to a new system as contributing to the backlog due to an unavoidable training period for staff.

A migration to new IT systems has also added to current stresses. HMCTS were clear that technical issues have been problematic to the probate infrastructure and caused the new system to languish offline for four days.

A myriad of other problems in addition to the period of transition have also caused increases to delays. The threat of a new fee structure has prompted many worried families to fast-track their applications for probate, flooding a governmental department already working at capacity.

Given the extent of delays and the unprecedented waiting time, HMCTS are also dealing with an influx of enquiries coming into registries, diluting the resources available to deal with the backlogged applications.

This swelling of issues, HMCTS claim has led to the average processing time of 30 working days to deal with an application, considerably slower than the start of the year.

Whilst they can’t be blamed for unforeseen IT glitches, should HMCTS have anticipated a surge in applications and prepared for this eventuality? Although the new IT glitches may have been responsible for causing the initial delays, it seems as though HMCTS may have been guilty of failing to adequately deal with a lack of resources. However, they have pledged more staffing resources to help stem the flow of applications.

As more grants of process are being made online, HMCTS aim to review reported errors in a bid to release advice on avoiding common pitfalls. They also aim to run a recruitment exercise to bring more firms on to test the online probate system as the digital system will ease the strain on registries over the next year.

The Law Society Press Release commented:

“We have serious concerns that further resources will be needed to have a tangible impact on the service, particularly to address any staff shortages over the summer months.

“We are also aware that HMRC have been in contact with executors to request payment, and interest.

“We will raise this with HMRC and have pressed HMCTS to improve their communications with other government departments to ensure clarity for applicants, particularly lay executors.”

Have you experienced an increase in delays to probate applications? How disruptive is this delayed process?

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