Protecting & passing on wealth

Publish date

7 December 2023

Government calls for evidence on probate delays

With delays at the Probate Registry at their highest rate since 2019, The House of Commons Justice Select Committee has launched an inquiry into the HM Courts & Tribunal Service’s Probate Registry’s performance.

The committee will collect evidence on capacity, resources and delays across the probate service. They will also explore the impact of digitisation, centralisation and innovation, including the effectiveness of the online probate portal.

Chair of the Justice Committee, Sir Bob Neill (Con, Bromley & Chislehurst), said:

“Concerns over probate have risen sharply over the last five years, with the waiting time for probate almost doubling in the last financial year alone. It is right the Justice Committee examine the reasons behind this, the consequences and takes evidence on the issues of capacity and resourcing.

“Families across the country, have faced challenges in navigating the probate system, with reports of rogue traders and poor practice, as well as significant delays. My Committee wants to examine how the administration of probate could be improved for people who are already coming to terms with the loss of a loved one.”   

The Committee is looking for written submissions from both professionals and members of the public by 22 January 2024 addressing questions including:

  • Does the probate service have the necessary resources, capabilities, and expertise to process applications for probate, including complex probate, in a timely manner? If they do not, how could this be improved?
  • What are the principle causes of the delays in issuing grants of representation?
  • What is being done to overcome the current delays and are there any gaps?
  • How well is the system working for complex probate applications?
  • How well are beneficiaries, executors and the bereaved protected and supported through the probate process? Are the needs of particular groups, such as disabled people or older people, appropriately considered? If not, what steps should be taken and what relevant examples of best practice exist?
  • How well are people protected from rogue traders? Is sufficient information and support available to individuals?
  • Are the fees and thresholds set at the right level?

Evidence can be submitted until 22 January 2024.

Delays to the probate process can cause emotional distress at an already difficult time and can also have significant tax implications in some circumstances. In addition, the Institute of Legacy Management has indicated that delays at the Probate Registry is causing a worrying decline in legacy notification numbers and cash receipts.

As such, anything that can be done to help streamline and speed up the process is to be welcomed.

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