Law Society Confront HMCTS Over Probate Delays

The Law Society met with HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) officials last week to discuss their concerns regarding the prolonged delays to the probate service.

On Thursday 27th June 2019, the Law Society implored HMCTS to provide regular and improved levels of communications to probate practitioners, executors and grieving families.

HMCTS confirmed that the majority of applications are currently taking between six and eight weeks to process. Since 25th March, 45,000 grants have been issued and the delays are declining.

However, after contacting all probate registries for England and Wales three weeks ago, Today’s Wills and Probate were informed that, as of 24th May, the Winchester Probate Registry was currently working on cases from 1st April 2019.

This would imply that up to May 24th, the backlog was actually 12 weeks. The email also claimed that ‘all registries are working to the same time scales’, suggesting that delays to applications are likely to exceed the eight-week maximum average highlighted by HMCTS.

HMCTS have asked those waiting for completed applications to avoid contacting any probate registry unless an outstanding form surpasses eight weeks.

To alleviate the pressure and speed up the current system HMCTS have hired extra staff, including legal advisers who are said to be focusing on the ‘issue end of the process’.

HMCTS have assured people that staffing levels are stable throughout although following the impending centralisation of probate registries, HMCTS have admitted that a lack of experience from new employees and reduced time to train them could be adding to delays.

In a further bid to speed up delays, work has been reallocated to higher performing registries to improve the number of processed applications. This may be why some applications have been processed out of order but in the majority of cases HMCTS strive to process applications in chronological sequence rather than on levels of urgency.

HMCTS have also confirmed that they are aware of some potential issues with the new grant of probate. Where there are multiple executors for an estate, the current application is only showing one of them to be the executor. In contentious cases or where the executors’ relationship is difficult, this issue can be fraught with problems and is being addressed.

Whilst the bulk scanning providers have been criticised for lacking speed, HMCTS has reiterated that they are focused on the accuracy of the service in determining the validity of a Will. They were therefore less concerned about the delays caused by this service.

Are the applications you have made exceeded eight weeks? What issues have been created because of persistent delays to the system?


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    Our Solicitor gave all paperwork in on 23rd March 2019 apart from the signed HMRC form for the inheritance tax, 8 weeks later HMRC sent form, they have now got all paperwork from 23rd May 2019, still waiting, so far been 6 weeks. Obviously we have gone to the back of the queue!

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    It is an utter disgrace the service of the probate service … they don’t acknowledge applications and their phone lines continually engaged ….

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    We have been waiting since early March for LOA for a 320k estate. Applied to Birmingham was sent to Newcastle truly a fiasco with total lack of communication or apology9

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    Same story, waiting for over 10 weeks for a Grant on a simple estate – sent to Newcastle but then shipped out to the Liverpool. They couldn’t deal so sent back to Newcastle and now apparently at the end of the pile waiting for processing again!

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    We have been waiting 16 weeks so far. It’s an absolute disgrace. Their lack of communication is appalling and then to read that they say their time scales are 6 to 8 weeks. I’m not sure if they are delusional or just brazen liars. The huge wait is causing countless problems and real hardship and the government clearly couldn’t care less.

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    I posted my application on 29th April and my cheque was very efficiently cashed on 3rd May! On 3rd June I chased for progress and was informed that everything was fine and it was just a matter of issuing the paperwork which should take a maximum of 2 weeks, however 9 weeks later and i have not received it. Delays of up to 11 weeks? Mine has been 14 weeks so far and no communication. Disgraceful way to treat grieving families.

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