A pledge by HM Courts & Tribunal Service that it is getting on top of big delays in the probate system is welcome – but not necessarily the end of the problems, says Michelle Monnes-Thomas, a partner in FBC Manby Bowdler’s Wills, Probate and Lifetime Planning team.
Anyone who has had any dealings with the probate service over the last six months will know that it has been going through a difficult time.
A switch to new software, coupled with a big rise in demand sparked by a controversial plan to raise fees – now scrapped – led to lengthy delays in handling applications.
So assurances from HM Courts & Tribunal Service (HMCTS) that the system should be back to normal in a matter of weeks is welcome.
But that does not mean that applications currently going through the system are not still being held up in the backlog which has built up since the new software went live in the Spring.
HMCTS has told the Law Society that it is sending out nearly 7,000 grants of probate a week and that issue levels should now remain high.
The service said that new applications were being processed within three days of being received and the bulk of applications were being dealt with within four weeks as long as inheritance tax forms were provided.
As a result, it is ‘optimistic that the probate service will very shortly return to normal levels’.
Whilst that is good news for new applications, we still have older claims dating back some time and have noticed an increase in the number of errors being made by HMCTS which adds further delays. That all adds extra stress to grieving families at a time when it is the last thing they need.
We are pleased with the change of heart over introducing higher fees and with news that the software issues finally seem to be close to being resolved. But we will continue to push HMCTS to clear this backlog and give our clients the service they so thoroughly deserve.
Michelle specialises in all aspects of wills and probate work and heads up the Community Care Team specialising in challenging care decisions and reviewing assessments for care and long term planning.
In addition, Michelle is FBCMB’s Alzheimer’s Society ‘Dementia Friends’ Training Champion which through training, workshops and community engagement leads efforts to educate colleagues about dementia and challenge perceptions of the condition. She can be contacted on the details below.