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About the Probate Service backlog

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As many bereaved families and practitioners will know, there have been significant delays at probate registries, nationwide, in the issuing of Grants of Representation (such as Grants of Probate or Grants of Letters of Administration).

The usual turnaround for the registries to issue a Grant was around two weeks, and sometimes faster. Earlier this year, however, a combination of factors at the same time led to delays to these timescales. The two main reasons, we understand, were firstly there was a change in the IT systems used by the probate registries, resulting in problems with the software and printing systems. Secondly, in April 2019 there was a suggestion that Parliament was going to increase, in a lot of cases, the probate registry fees. This led to an influx of applications before the supposed deadline. The delays were discussed in the House of Lords on 12 June 2019, during which it was noted that there had been a 22% increase in applications leading up to that deadline. The fee increase then actually did not take effect, and it is still unclear as to whether it will. 

We have also been experiencing these delays in our applications for Grants. In some instances, solicitors across the country have reported delays of over 12 weeks.

Only this week, the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) met with HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), together with the Law Society and others, to discuss the delays. It was reported by STEP in an article published 10 September 2019 that HMCTS are still receiving 700-800 Grant applications per day, and have processed 98,000 Grants since April 2019! But we are pleased to read that HMCTS have increased their staffing by 20% and are striving to get back to their pre-March levels of turnaround.

This week, however, I am proud (and surprised!) to have received a Grant back from the Registry within four weeks! Could this be a sign that things are starting to improve? We all hope so!

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