According to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), the delays affecting grants of probate have slightly improved in the second quarter of 2022. (Probate delays showing signs of easing, data reveals | Today’s Wills and Probate (todayswillsandprobate.co.uk))
Between April and June 2022, the average time from application submission to grant issue for probate grants was seven weeks, reduced from an average of eight weeks between January and March.
The average wait for letters of administration with a will and without a will were 16 and 12 weeks respectively, a slight increase from the previous quarter.
The wait for a grant of probate for those applications that were not stopped remained constant at five weeks.
There has also been an increase in the number of applications made online for grants with the grants then subsequently being issued online.
However, those dealing with the probate registry may not paint the same picture.
Currently, there is typically an eight week waiting period before the Probate Registry to create a case in their systems, followed by an estimated further eight to ten weeks for probate to be granted. Resulting in potentially a wait of 16 to 18 weeks before the final grant is issued and received. (Probate Delays: What To Expect | Roche Legal)
The average total time taken from submission to grant issue for all probate applications, both digital and paper, was 9.3 weeks in October 2022, the same as in September. That is 5.7% longer than those issued in August 2022. The delay for stopped digital applications also rose by 5.9% to 16.2 weeks, the longest wait since December 2021. (Probate delays failing to improve, data suggests | Today’s Wills and Probate (todayswillsandprobate.co.uk))
Add in the recent Royal Mail postal strikes, and paper applications are experiencing even further delays.
Additional factors adding to the delays in the issuing of a grant, include the required inheritance tax forms being received by HMRC which can take up to 20 days. As well as MoJ scanning partner errors involving binding being incorrectly removed from wills and then subsequently stapling the wills which then requires further investigation.
A huge knock on effect of these delays is that the Personal Representatives of Estates are unable to progress with the estate administration.
HMCTS update from the 13 December 2022 provided that:
- They have employed and trained more staff
- They have centralised their telephone and email response centres over the last 2-3 weeks and we should start to see improvement shortly.
- They are now up to date with the scanning of cases onto the system
- They will be expanding their online service to cover more types of cases
HMCTS has advised that when contacting them, Monday is its peak day and Friday is the quietest. Quieter periods are usually Tuesday to Thursday, between 8am to 10am and 4pm to 6pm. (Probate service update – July 2022 | The Law Society)
Impact on Charities
The time legacies could be distributed to charities is ever increasing. The delays facing the grant of probates being distributed will inevitably affect estate administrations for the majority of estates. For example, the time executors can collect in and deal with the deceased’s assets, such as bank accounts, will take longer due to the need of a grant of probate being required, in the majority of cases, before they can deal with the asset.
There are of course grants which are issued in a speedy manner and it does appear that the time frames of grants is improving albeit slightly and rather slowly. In addition, it seems as though there is a greater push for online applications to be made which may be necessary now more than ever due to the recent postal strikes.
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