Slow progress on probate applications

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Tom Pettman


Phone 01264 325810


The probate system has been under fire for some time. Changes to the way the service operates, and a backlog of probate applications, have resulted in delays that are taking their toll on families dealing with the death of a loved one.

As probate solicitors, we’re not yet able to reassure clients that their probate applications will be dealt with anywhere near as quickly as they would have been a few years ago. It used to be reasonable to expect probate to be granted within two weeks. This has now become months and, in the worst cases, over a year.

These delays have an emotional impact on grieving families that simply want to get through the process of wrapping up their loved ones’ affairs. Probate is the process of ‘administering an estate’, which includes settling any debts and distributing assets to beneficiaries. The delays in the probate process are meaning long waits before the legal permission to start doing that is in place. It creates a limbo situation for families.

There are financial implications, too. One of the knock-on effects of the delays in granting probate is liability for interest payments on inheritance tax that hasn’t been paid within six months of the person’s death. Another is that the deceased person’s home may have to remain empty and unsold long after it should be, with related charges continuing to apply.  

An inquiry into the probate service is reported to have found that the problems have been caused by 'the failure to understand the magnitude of the centralisation and digitisation projects and a failure to appreciate the importance of an experienced and skilled workforce.’ There are calls for the service to publish its performance targets – something that would certainly enable us as probate solicitors to provide clients with better information and help them plan around the delays.

While the issues are being addressed, it’s important to make sure your probate application stands to be accepted without causing further delay. This includes making sure right form is used and it’s correctly signed. We’re on hand to help you do this, as well as to support you throughout the probate process.

For advice on probate, or any other aspect of wills and inheritance, contact us on or call on 01264 353411.

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