A recent survey has suggested that 70% of practitioners are waiting in excess of 10 weeks for a grant of probate, with more than half saying it was taking longer than 19 weeks.
The research was conducted by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers who also provide a regulatory framework for probate practitioners, and will come as no surprise to those in the industry who have experienced increasing delays over the last two years, with both staff cuts and teething issues with the new online system blamed. The findings are in line with recent statistics to come out of HMCTS which indicate an estimated 14 weeks for grant of probate in July and August 2023.
60% of respondents said that the online probate service wasn’t able to handle complex or technically difficult cases, and 53% said they were no longer able to reach HMCTS staff to help provide guidance with complex cases. two-thirds (62%) said they no longer felt that HMCTS communicates well to the profession about ongoing changes.
Commenting on the survey Stephen Ward, Director of Strategy, at the CLC said:
“It has undoubtedly been a difficult period for anyone who has been involved with probate for a loved one’s estate. Covid’s legacy has provided a difficult backdrop for the probate sector. However, whilst wait times have been lengthy, nearly half (48%) of those we spoke to acknowledged that while the online system had teething problems it does now work well for straightforward cases and we expect that further improvements will allow for expedient processing of more complex cases.”
The biennial survey, which examines the current state of the probate market, also found that nearly three quarters (71%) of practitioners agreed with an extension to the current 12-month claims window for loss relief on share price falls for inheritance tax. Adding yet further weight to a recent Financial Times report that there is “growing pressure” upon ministers to do so, or indeed abolish IHT entirely.
The results of the survey also identified frustrations in the financial services sector, where 88% of respondents said the banking sector needs a standardised procedure put in place for dealing with probate, and in particular the requirements for law firms seeking to access monies and assets of the deceased in the administration of an estate.
Of particular note is the issue faced by a third of the respondents, who reported that around half of their clients were unaware that they have been appointed an executor after the person who left the will has died