Rubric Lois King, Probate Solicitors Birmingham, Review Increased Probate Delays
Since the beginning of 2019 the probate registries have seen serious hold-ups, adding to the grief for bereaved families.
A grant of probate is a court sealed document which indicates that a will is valid and the persons named as executors have the right to collect in the assets. Prior to the application being made, it is necessary to obtain accurate valuations of the assets in the estate, fill in tax forms and draw up a statement of truth. For complex estates this can take a considerable amount of time. It is not unusual for there to be a lapse of between 3 and 6 months between death and the application being submitted. Unfortunately, since the beginning of 2019 there have been serious delays at the probate registries, which have added to the problems faced by bereaved families.
What are the reasons for the delay?
Firstly, it had been proposed to introduce much higher court fees for probate applications from April. This led to a rush to get applications in by the end of March, particularly for large estates where the fee was due to increase to £2000. At the same time, a new computer system was introduced and the printing of the grants was outsourced. Predictably the computer system had glitches. Less predictably the printing company ran out of the right paper. Adding to this, estates subject to inheritance tax must make a payment upfront. This involves obtaining a receipt from HMRC to be sent to the probate registry before a grant can be issued. This process adds to the delay.
What is the current situation?
Currently, it is taking between 8 and 14 weeks for a grant to issue whereas previously 2 to 3 weeks was the norm. This leads to uncertainty for the bereaved and may cause real hardship too.
Many bereaved widows, and indeed some widowers, might be faced with handling their finances for the first time. Without the probate they cannot access funds from the deceased’s accounts. They may run into difficulties paying bills, although there is an exception made for the funeral bill. Younger families may need the proceeds of a life policy to clear a mortgage or a loan. A previously agreed house sale will have to be put on hold.
Dealing with the problem
Extra staff are being recruited but the closure of a lot of registries, Birmingham included, will not help matters.
RLK: Probate Solicitors Birmingham
By Joyce Bennell, Head of Private Client