The probate service’s workload increased significantly during the winter wave of the pandemic, the government has said, as solicitors reject claims that waiting times for grants of probate are falling.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service has told that Law Society that it is recruiting more staff and boosting training to help reduce response times, after grappling with a surge in applications since the end of February.

According to government figures, digital applications currently take four weeks from submission to a grant being issued, providing there are no stops, and 11 weeks if they are stopped. Meanwhile, paper applications take 16 weeks with stops and just under three weeks with no stops. However, HMCTS claimed the real waiting time for digital applications is often shorter than four weeks, as it takes just 0.3 weeks for a grant to be issued once the relevant documents have been uploaded online.

‘The document receipt metric is a more honest reflection of the time taken for grants to be issued because HMCTS can only progress an application once they have been received. We publish both metrics for purposes of transparency,' it said.

However, solicitors have told the Law Society that the data shared by HMCTS does not reflect the reality of using the service. They have also reported applications being stopped in error and subsequently sent to the back of the queue.

The online service – which is now mandatory for professionals applying for grants of probate – has also caused issues, with applicants reporting repeated failure of access codes, or being diverted back to the login page despite entering the relevant details. HMCTS told the Law Society it was aware of these issues and that they are now fixed.

The Law Society expects to meet with HMCTS again at the end of June.