In a recent parliamentary session, Richard Fuller, a Conservative member for North East Bedfordshire, sought clarity on the current state of the HM Courts and Tribunals Service’s performance relating to probate issues.
Specifically, he inquired about the adequacy of the service’s performance on probate issues and the speed at processing applications. Responding to this query, Mike Freer, Assistant Whip and The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, acknowledged the unprecedented surge in probate applications throughout 2022 and the continued increase in the first half of 2023.
He reported that the HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has undertaken significant efforts to streamline internal processes, thus reducing administrative delays and improving processing times. These efforts include substantial investments in digital systems and online filing capabilities, enabling users to more easily track the progress of their applications.
In addition to technological improvements, HMCTS has notably increased its staffing levels within the Probate department over the past year. This expansion, although initially contributing to longer training and upskilling periods, is ultimately aimed at accelerating application processing. As a result of these comprehensive measures, the average time taken for a grant of probate, post receipt of necessary documents, was approximately 13 weeks from April to June 2023.
More recent data from HMCTS revealed a continued delay for probate applications – showing a delayed waiting time of 15.2 weeks in October. Commenting on the figures, Ian Bond, Partner at Irwin Mitchell, said that the 27,664 was the highest grant output in a single month by HMCTS. He continued:
“I’m told by HMCTS that November will be another record output and the third month in a row where number of issued grants will exceed receipts. Further reducing the backlog. The average wait time for a non-stopped application (from submission to grant issued) is now just over 16 weeks and again told this will likely be under the 16 week average by the end of the year.”
Freer emphasised the ongoing commitment of HMCTS to enhance its output and reduce overall timelines for all types of applications. He also noted that average waiting times for probate grants and related statistics are regularly updated and made publicly available on the government’s official website through the Family Court Statistics Quarterly, which includes data up to June 2023.