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| 1 minute read

UK MPs to consider continuing delays at the probate registry and their impact

The news that the House of Commons Justice Select Committee is to launch an inquiry into the probate registry's performance will be welcome news for probate practitioners, personal representatives and beneficiaries alike. It's no secret that there are significant delays in the issue of grants of representation and while the probate registry itself reports that the average wait time for grants stood at 14 weeks in July of this year, it's not uncommon for grants to take much longer. This is especially true for paper applications (where applying online is not permitted) or where applications are stopped. The average wait time between submission and grant for a stopped paper application in July was an extraordinary 30 weeks and when the probate registry will not respond to enquiries until 16 weeks have elapsed, frustrations abound. 

This frustration is multi-layered. Even when personal representatives have acted quickly in gathering the information needed to complete the inheritance tax return and apply for probate, probate registry delays often mean that a grant doesn't follow swiftly. Where assets are illiquid or otherwise require a grant in order to be sold, the estate may have to pay significant amounts of interest on unpaid IHT, and with interest currently running at a punitive 7.75% this can mount up and erode a beneficiary's entitlement. More broadly, the grant is the “key” to unlocking the estate and enables the personal representatives to administer it for the benefit of their beneficiaries. Without a grant, beneficiaries are left in limbo, unable to move forward in the probate process, suffering both the financial and emotional effects of probate registry delays. All this against the background of recent digitalisation of the process being intended to lead to increased efficiencies.

By considering the principle causes of delays and the particular issues around complex probate applications and stops, it is hoped that this inquiry will lead to a more efficient, timely and streamlined probate process, one which will benefit both personal representatives and beneficiaries and alleviate the current tensions.

The inquiry will take evidence on capacity, resources and delays across the probate service, the impact of digitisation and centralisation, and the effectiveness of the online probate portal.


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