New software at probate registries is causing delays of up to 13 weeks, solicitors have told the Gazette, as waiting times worsen.
Before the government IT system was introduced in March, grants of probate were issued within seven to 10 working days. Soon after the software was installed, however, a technical glitch disrupted the service. Solicitors reported delays of four to eight weeks in early May.
Terry Moore, a partner at Burstalls Solicitors, told the Gazette that on 26 April probate registries were working on cases received on 19 March, while on 5 June they were working on cases received on 24 March. In approximately a month, therefore, just six days headway has been made against the backlog.
Moore said that ‘outrageous’ delays are casting solicitors in a bad light and preventing prompt accounting to relevant beneficiaries. 'Solicitors are also having to pay from their own funds bills and emergency expenses as court delay are preventing them promptly gathering in the liquid assets of estates,’ he added.
The Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) group warned that if mistakes are made on an original application for probate, the corrected forms could be put to the back of the queue, meaning people could have to wait up to 15 weeks for a grant of probate.
SFE director Ruth Pyatt said: ‘The SFE is concerned for those in society who are in need of an urgent grant, especially those who are recently bereaved and have no other option but to apply for probate.
‘We hope to see delays in issuing grants of probate addressed soon but expect this may worsen as people rush to apply before the increase in probate registry fees is brought in.’
In a letter to Moore’s MP seen by the Gazette, parliamentary under-secretary of state for justice Paul Maynard states: ‘Unfortunately when the new system for probate online went live on 25 March, a technical issue disrupted the service for four days, causing delays.’
He added: ‘Our software developers have now rectified the issue and the system is working as it should.’
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: 'Our new online service is making probate simpler and more convenient for bereaved people. Some grants are experiencing delays of two to four weeks and we are working hard to bring waiting times down further. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.'