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?