Less than 10% of probate applications have been issued within the government’s target of 10 working days since delays began last spring, a freedom of information request by the Gazette has revealed.
The Ministry of Justice disclosed that just 9% of grants of probate have been issued within 10 working days since April 2019, and the mean end-to-end time for grants issued in December was eight weeks, down from 10 weeks in the summer. Grants issued in December which were not stopped because of missing documents or errors took an average of five weeks to arrive, down from nine weeks in the summer.
The MoJ said that applications from solicitors are now being dealt with within 10 working days, and have been since 27 January 2020. It did not disclose how long personal applications currently take to travel through the probate system.
Since April 2019, the longest period of time between an application being submitted and a grant of probate being issued was 274 days. The MoJ said this application was stopped for ‘valid reasons’ including the fact that relevant documents were not provided. The shortest recorded waiting time was one day.
Probate delays began in spring 2019, when a software glitch coincided with a spike in applications. The spike was caused by executors rushing to beat a probate fee hike which was later scrapped.
Meanwhile, 18 probate sub-registries closed their doors last week and a ‘managed programme’ of further closures is planned. In a letter to stakeholders, the chief executive of HM Courts & Tribunals Service Susan Acland-Hood promised the closures would not set back probate applications. As part of the government’s £1bn modernisation programme, probate requests will now be handled by national courts and tribunals service centres.