Jurit partner gives evidence to Justice Committee investigating probate delays

Jo Summers TEP, partner in the private wealth & tax team at law firm Jurit LLP, has given oral evidence to the Justice Committee examining the impact of probate delays.

The inquiry, launched in November 2023, is exploring the impact of the delays and whether the Ministry of Justice’s statements that the Probate Registry service has improved, reflect the experience of practitioners and the public.

At its first session in March, the Committee examined the significant impact across the charitable sector, in particular organisations reliant on funding from gifts in wills.

However, there are wider concerns about how effectively beneficiaries, executors and the bereaved are supported throughout the process.

The inquiry has now taken evidence from Jurit probate practitioner, partner Jo Summers, on capacity, resources and delays across the probate service and the impact of digitisation and centralisation, including the effectiveness of the online probate portal.

According to Summers, who was on the Law Society’s Wills & Equity Committee for 10 years until 2023, and is a regular spokesperson on behalf of STEP about the issue, some families are waiting for up to nine months for probate to be granted.

It is a problem which has garnered a great deal of media attention with the likes BBC Radio London and BBC Radio 4’s Money Box and You and Yours programmes all covering it in recent months, with insights from Summers on some of the reasons behind the delays, as well as what people can do to mitigate them. Commenting on BBC Radio 4, she explained:

“The centralisation of the probate registry, a move to digitalisation of services and the spike in excess deaths caused by COVID-19, created a perfect storm for the probate service.”

According to the latest data published by HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS), the average waiting time for probate applications decreased slightly from 13.8 to 13.7 weeks, in February. However, Summers added:

“Whilst official figures show that waiting times for probate have decreased ever so slightly, the waiting time for paper applications has actually gone up to 22.5 weeks. So, unless you are submitting applications online, which can take around eight weeks to be processed, according to the latest data, you can still expect significant delays.”

During the panel Justice Committee discussion, which took place at Portcullis House, London, committee members asked questions about how the application process works and its interaction with other processes, such as paying inheritance tax.

They considered suggested improvements and mitigations, as presented by Jo Summers of Jurit, together with Stuart Simpson, of Equiniti. Speaking after giving evidence, Summers concluded:

“We would like to see more personnel recruited into the Probate Registry and more senior personnel too, who are experienced and able to make decisions on more complex cases, as well as more involvement with professional bodies like STEP on what is needed.”

The Committee will report back on their findings in due course. In the meantime, the meeting can be watched for further information on Parliamentlive.tv.

Read more stories

Join over 6,000 wills and probate practitioners – Check back daily for all the latest news, views, insights and best practice and sign up to our e-newsletter to receive our weekly round up every Friday morning. 

You’ll receive the latest updates, analysis, and best practice straight to your inbox.