Probate Registries across England and Wales are causing significant delays to solicitors and families trying to obtain a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration.
A Grant of Probate is a legal document issued by the Probate Registry confirming the executor’s entitlement to administer the assets of a deceased person’s estate. Without this document, executors or administrators are unable to close bank accounts, sell investments and property or transfer assets to beneficiaries of the estate.
Probate Registries are currently experiencing high volumes of applications from solicitors and families who are attempting to avoid the impending hike in Probate Fees, which may see estates having to pay up to £6,000, as opposed to £155. The increase in Probate Fees were delayed after speculation it would come into effect in April 2019 and could now be put into effect at any time with 21 days’ notice.
The threat of Probate Fee increases has come at a time where the Probate Registries are at their most fragile, facing funding cuts with multiple Probate Registries shutting down around the county. In an attempt to mitigate this, the Probate Registries implemented a new computer system at the end of March 2019 to reduce their costs and improve work flow, but since its implementation, they have experienced severe technical difficulties causing further delay to the unprecedented high volume of applications.
Estate administrations are now at a standstill until the backlog of 35,000 applications are processed. Applications to the Probate Registry are usually processed within 7–14 days, but currently, Probate Registries across the country are taking 3–4 months to issue a Grant of Probate.
What does this mean for executors?
Executors will need to factor in this additional delay when reporting to beneficiaries on the likely timescales for distribution of the estate and settling liabilities of the estate. These delays also highlight the importance of making a Will in order to ensure your affairs are in order so as to minimise any further delays for your Executors in obtaining Probate.
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.