Probate delays have catastrophic effect on grieving loved ones

The severe backlog in probate applications, which pre-dates Covid, has a detrimental effect on those who grieve the loss of their loved ones, warns the Law Society of England and Wales.

This warning comes as the Law Society presents evidence to the Justice Select Committee’s probate inquiry today (30 April).*

Our president Nick Emmerson said: “delays to the probate service can adversely impact families during a difficult time, as they deal with the loss of their loved one.

“We are aware of significant delays to the probate service. In 2016, before changes were made to the probate service, applications took on average seven to 10 working days to process. Most recent data shows delays of more than 13 weeks.**

“It is unacceptable that some families are forced to wait in limbo for over three months, as they manage the complex administration that follows the death of a family member.

“Delays have also forced grieving clients to incur additional costs, such as unnecessary interest payments on outstanding inheritance tax. Many property transactions also fall through.

“We welcome HM Courts and Tribunals Service’s (HMCTS) commitment to reducing delays. There have been gradual signs of improvement – with HMCTS reporting more grants being issued than applications received at the end of 2023.

“However, there needs to be sustained improvements in the probate service.

“Beyond recruiting new staff, HMCTS must train staff to possess the required knowledge and level of expertise to handle both digital and paper applications.

“HMCTS should also undertake further consultation before expanding the digital service to ensure future online probate processes are user friendly.

“We are grateful to the committee for launching this inquiry. We hope that it results in positive action being taken to address the ongoing issue with probate delays and helps to get the system functioning again, so that probate applications are dealt with in a timely manner.”

Notes to editors

About the Law Society

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Press office contact: Shanzeh Haque | 07706 989843

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