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Delays In Probate Services In England & Wales

February 5, 2024 By Christian Ee Wills, Executry & Probate

Last week, STEP (The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) responded to the House of Commons Justice Committee’s enquiry into the Probate Service in England and Wales.

STEP found that many bereaved families were waiting more than 11 months for Probate to be granted and the waiting times have almost doubled between April 2022 – April 2023. This is causing families financial hardship during an emotional and stressful situation.

STEP also reported that the delays were resulting in cancelled house sales. An estate may be subject to Inheritance Tax due in part to the value of the property and so may not have sufficient assets elsewhere to pay the Inheritance Tax, which incurs penalty interest if not paid in time or if paid via instalments. As many families were unable to sell properties, they were then were having to incur additional interest payments.

In this blog, we will discuss various aspects relating to probate services, including:

  1. Concerns Regarding the Probate Registry Service
  2. What is Probate?
  3. The Process of Settling An Estate
  4. About a Grant of Representation and Probate Registry
  5. Get in touch with our Probate Team at Jones Whyte

Concerns Regarding the Probate Registry Service

Worryingly, STEP members reported several concerns regarding the Probate Registry service including;

  • – A lack of experienced staff, which causes long turnaround times for complex cases
  • – Straightforward cases taking several months to be processed and drastically longer for more complex ones
  • – Typos and incorrect information contained in the Grant, which would need to be corrected before you can deal with someone’s estate
  • – Applications being stopped by the Probate Registry, sometimes due to their error, and the cases being put at the back of the queue
  • – Inability for Probate Practitioners to speak with staff, contributing to significant delays

STEP put forward recommendations to the committee and also welcomed some improvements that have already been implemented, however there is still a long way to go for the Probate Service to be fit for purpose. Until then, bereaved families will continue to juggle the emotional strain and the financial hardship.

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What Is Probate?

Probate is a legal document issued by the court confirming the appointment of Executors and their authority to administer an estate. Various institutions such as banks, building societies and insurance companies refer to probate in their correspondence, irrespective of the location of the deceased’s estate.

Probate may be necessary in England and Wales when a person’s estate exceeds a certain threshold, if assets are solely owned by the deceased person and cannot be transferred automatically, if the deceased person doesn’t have a valid will, or to ensure correct estate administration. There are various reasons why probate may be required.

Reach out to our probate solicitors today if you would like further information. We want to ensure you have all the necessary information and the process is as stress free as possible for you.

Reach out to our probate solicitors today if you would like further information. We want to ensure you have all the necessary information and the process is as stress free as possible for you.

The Process of Settling An Estate

The steps typically taken to wind up an estate include:

  • – Inventory. The process of identifying and listing the entire estate.
  • – Probate. This confirms the death and releases any assets to the executor.
  • – Paying off any debts.
  • – Passing on inheritance to the beneficiaries.

About a Grant of Representation and Probate Registry

Applying for a Grant of Representation, whether this be for Probate or Letters of Administration, is vital for the personal representatives to enable them to deal with someone’s affairs when they die. Without the Grant, bank accounts can be frozen, properties cannot be sold, debts cannot be settled and the wishes of the deceased are unable to be fulfilled.

With the Probate Registry already under scrutiny and causing delays, it is important to ensure that the estate is investigated promptly and the application submitted to the Probate Registry, and if applicable HMRC, as soon as possible. With the Probate Registry’s tendency to put cases at the back of the queue if any errors are found, it is imperative that these applications be correct first time.

Reach Out to Our Probate Team at Jones Whyte

Contact Jones Whyte to speak with our experienced Probate Team, who are able to guide you through this complex and emotional process and provide you with expert and practical advice given their expertise. They will take on the legal and administrative tasks so that you can focus on grieving and being with friends and family.

Our friendly and empathetic Bereavement Team will be able to help you with the probate application, ensure the entire process is as straightforward and, take away any stress you may be dealing with.

Contact Our Bereavement Team

Contact our experienced and sympathetic Bereavement Team for further information or advice.

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