We have seen significant delays recently when trying to obtain Grants of Probate for deceased estates which has caused stress and frustration to anyone trying to wind up an estate or exchange contracts on a property sale. The increased workload as a result of Covid19 has, of course, had an impact on the amount of applications which require processing, but also a complete change in their working practices, in an attempt to “streamline” the service, has clearly had the opposite effect which has amplified their inefficiencies.
A survey recently carried out by Solicitors for the Elderly has revealed some shocking statistics:
- 95% of Solicitors* said that the new online system is not fit for purpose and that the changes to the system has resulted in grieving families facing unacceptable extra heartache
- Some applications have taken more than 32 weeks
- Additional interest and penalties for inheritance tax have been imposed as a result of the delay in being able to sell property to pay the tax or encash assets which require a grant before they will release the money to the executors
- Property sales have, in some cases, fallen through as clients wait with frustration for the Grant of Probate to be issued
- 93% of Solicitors reported that the situation has caused extra distress
Waiting on hold for more than an hour when trying to speak to a representative at the Probate Registry is commonplace and incredibly frustrating to be told “one call for one client”.
Conservative John Stevenson MP spoke at a Westminster Hall debate recently saying the probate service is overwhelmed with more delays and errors than it was two years ago, even though there are now higher staff numbers and a bigger budget. Stevenson asked: “Could the minister please explain how a service which employs more people and costs more is now delivering a poorer service?”.
In the meantime, we continue to do the best for our clients and advise of the delay at the very beginning, so families know what to expect and hope that action is taken swiftly to remedy this ongoing problem.
*Who took part in the survey