Contested probate cases rose to 122 in 2023, statistics reveal

In 2023 there were 122 contested probate cases, up from 116 cases in 2022, according to the Ministry of Justice Family Court Statistics. 

Philip Collins, Partner at Winckworth Sherwood, said that it “isn’t at all surprising” that there has been a rise in contested probate claims. He said:

“We know that significant amounts of wealth, often tied up in property,  is currently being passed down to younger generations. Inherited wealth is becoming increasingly important and can often act as a vital source of financial support to people. Allied with more complicated family structures and people forming new relationships later in life, then it isn’t at all surprising that there has been a rise in contested probate claims.

We would urge those with large estates and elderly relatives to not leave the search for professional advice until the last minute. Sourcing professional legal advice early can not only help families mitigate against significant and abrupt emotional pain, but also help them to avoid any major and unexpected financial surprises.”

The statistics also revealed that probate grants took approximately 14 weeks to be issued after the application was submitted during October to December 2023. Letters of administration with a will and without a will took around 23 and 17 weeks respectively.

In October to December 2023, there were 53,927 applications for probate grants. 63,172 probate grants were issued in the same period. 88% of these applications and 89% of these grants issued were made digitally, compared to 89% of each in the same quarter in 2022.

What’s more, there were 65,630 applications made for grants of representation in October to December 2023. 53,927 (82%) of these were for probate grants, of which 88% were made digitally.

Probate grants also make up the majority (80%) of all grants issued. In October to December 2023, 57% of the grants issued were applied for by legal professionals and 43% were personal applications (Table 24). For the 63,172 probate grants issued in the same period, 89% were issued digitally.

During 2023, there were 302,413 applications made for grants of representation, up 3% on 2022, and the highest number of applications in the series. Of which, there were 244,224 applications for probate grants, up 5% from 2022. There was a total of 277,746 grants of representation issued, up 3% on 2022. There were 219,842 probate grants issued, down by less than 1% from 2022. Probate grants made up 79% of all the grants of representation issued in 2023.

The mean average time from application submission to grant issue for probate grants was 14 weeks (median average 11 weeks) in October to December 2023. The mean time between application submission and grant being issued is the second highest it’s been since 2019, and represents work to focus on the oldest cases. Whilst the mean average time for the majority of grants (digital probate grants for applications not stopped which formed 65% of total probate grants issued) took approximately 10.2 weeks from application submission to grant issue and was maintained at 7.9 weeks from document receipt to grant issue.

Timeliness of grants issued can be affected if the case has been ‘stopped’ for any reason (which can occur when there’s a dispute about either who can apply for probate or issues with a will or proposed will, or if an error is identified and a request for further information made). Probate grants that were stopped during October to December 2023 took 23 weeks on average to be issued, compared to 10 weeks for those that were not stopped.

When looking at the time from document receipt (i.e. when payment has been made and the application and all accompanying documents are ready for examination) to grant issue, this is around 2 weeks quicker than the average time from application submission for probate grants.

Averages for letters of administration with a will and without a will were 23 and 17 weeks respectively for October to December 2023, though these formed a smaller proportion of all grants issued, 4% and 16% respectively.

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