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Survey: Grant of probate delays extend to 19 weeks

4 October, 2023

In a recent survey undertaken by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) 70% of probate practitioners reported waiting in excess of 10 weeks for probate to be granted, with 57% of those saying it was taking longer than 19 weeks.

As recently as May, data released by HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) revealed the average wait between submission and grant issue for probate applications was over eight weeks.

The findings will come as no surprise to those in the industry who have experienced increasing delays over the last two years, with both staff cuts and teething issues with the new online system blamed.

When questioned, 60% also said that the online probate service wasn’t able to handle complex or technically difficult cases, and 53% said they were no longer able to reach HMCTS staff to help provide guidance with complex cases. Further, 62% said they no longer feel that HMCTS communicates well to the profession about ongoing changes.

The biennial survey, which examines the current state of the probate market, also found that nearly three quarters (71%) of practitioners agreed with an extension to the current 12-month claims window for loss relief on share price falls for inheritance tax. Adding yet further weight to a recent Financial Times report that there is “growing pressure” upon ministers to do so.

Other findings:

  • An overwhelming 88% said the banking sector needs a standardised procedure put in place for dealing with probate, and in particular the requirements for law firms seeking to access monies/assets of the deceased in the administration of an estate.
  • 50% highlighted that up to 25% of their clients needed to take out a loan to cover inheritance tax bills.
  • More than a third of practitioners report up to 50% of their clients only discover that they have been appointed an executor after the person who left the will has died. Highlighting that those writing wills should be providing information and advice to executors to help prepare them, at the point the will is written.

Stephen Ward, director of strategy, at the CLC said: “It has undoubtedly been a difficult period for anyone who has been involved with probate for a loved one’s estate. Covid’s legacy has provided a difficult backdrop for the probate sector. However, whilst wait times have been lengthy, nearly half (48%) of those we spoke to acknowledged that while the online system had teething problems it does now work well for straightforward cases and we expect that further improvements will allow for expedient processing of more complex cases.”