How is COVID-19 causing delays to the probate process?

How is COVID-19 causing delays to the probate process?

Posted by Lucy Gordon, on October 29, 2020. Tags: ,

Many people are currently being affected by severe delays at the Probate Registry partly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is causing the process of administering the estates of loved ones to be delayed for thousands of bereaved families.

At Spratt Endicott Solicitors, we are working hard to support our clients through this difficult period. We are particularly aware the effects that these delays are having on our most vulnerable clients, and we value the support we receive as  members of Solicitors for the Elderly .

Solicitors for the Elderly

Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) is a specialist organisation with over 1600 members which  focusses on serving the needs of older  people. In addition to offering support and training, SFE also works behind the scenes with government and legal bodies to put forward the concerns of its members.

Of the recent delays in obtaining a Grant of Probate, Michael Culver, Chair of SFE said: “It used to be possible to get a Grant of Probate in two weeks, now it’s more like twelve. We have real concerns about how further delays will impact people at an already distressing time.”

Delays in Obtaining the Grant of Probate

Although it is certainly being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, solicitors have been facing delays of up to three months since early 2019. Initially caused by issues with new software in Probate Registries, there was also a rise in applications as executors attempted to beat the since abandoned probate fee hike that was due to come into force in April 2019.

This issue has been compounded by the centralisation of the probate registry and the closure of some of the smaller registries which used to offer an excellent and personal service. Now all paperwork is scanned in and emailed to the central office which seems to be struggling under the weight of what appears to be one vast inbox. Documents scanned and emailed from HMRC to the probate registry do not get attached to pending applications as seamlessly as they should and much time is being spent by us chasing our clients’ matters by telephone.

The delays and  backlog are causing significant challenges.

Moving Forward

From 2nd of November 2020, with few exceptions, all grant of probate applications where there is a will must be made using MyHMCTS, the online service which it is hoped should see a reduction in the delays and give the ability to monitor the progress of applications. We have been doing these applications online since March and so far that is not our experience. We will continue to chase by email and telephone to get the best service that we can for our clients.   

Lucy Gordon is a Director and Head of the Private Client practice at Spratt Endicott Solicitors, to contact Lucy regarding anything discussed in this article please email lgordon@se-law.co.uk.

*Disclaimer: While everything has been done to ensure the accuracy of the contents of this article, it is a general guide only. It is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be sought in relation to the particular facts of a given situation. The information is accurate at date of publication, 29th of October 2020 .

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