Delays at the Probate Registry when applying for a grant of representation have been a real frustration for many families, executors and beneficiaries over the last few years. The delays date back to threats to increase probate registry fees and after changes to the work structure of HMCTS, in particular the closure of some Probate Registries, made pre-Covid. The delays were heightened further as a result of the pandemic and the ‘stay at home’ message.
One of the main changes introduced before the pandemic was the option of applying for a grant of representation online. Now it has become mandatory for certain applications to be submitted online. When you go to make an application, you will need to consider whether the application is suitable for an online application or whether you will need to complete a paper application. Generally, the applications that necessitate a paper application are more complicated such as if the will has been lost or relates to intestate estates.
Once an application has been submitted, HMCTS will either process the application and issue the grant or ‘stop’ the application awaiting some further information or documentation.
HMCTS have acknowledged the significant delays with grant applications and data is regularly published in relation to the probate service performance. The Law Society also has periodic meetings with members of my HMCTS and provides feedback on the performance. Following the most recent Law Society report published this week and data published by HMCTS, the average figures for the time between the submitting an application and issuing the grant are:
4 weeks – without any stops
15 weeks – if stopped
8 weeks – without any stops
22 weeks – if stopped
If you have had to complete an IHT400 account before submitting the grant application, you will need to factor in a further period of time for HMRC to issue the necessary forms to the Probate Registry – currently the turnaround time for HMRC to do this is 20 working days.
Moving forward, HMCTS is focusing on bringing down the wait time particularly for paper applications, which are generally more complex. One specific strategy to bring down the aged paper applications is to provide further training to HMCTS staff in relation to intestacies to allow the intestate estate applications to be dealt with more efficiently. As a result of the pandemic there has been a reported increase in intestate applications.
The average figures are certainly an improvement on the figures for last year and we hope they will continue to head in the right direction throughout 2022. It remains to be seen whether the 2-3 week turn around service once provided will ever return.
Thomson Snell & Passmore’s probate team was an early adopter of the online grant application system and will be able to advise on when an online application is appropriate. The team keeps up to date with HMCTS developments so we can continue to provide the best possible service to our clients. If you have any questions or want to discuss the timing of the grant applications further, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the team.