Justice Committee’s Evidence Session into the Probate Service

STEP member and Partner at Jurit Law, Jo Summers TEP, gave evidence at the House of Common’s Justice Committee’s evidence session on the performance of the probate service on 16th April. The committee was established as a follow up to the Justice Committee’s written inquiry into the probate service and its poor performance in November 2023.

We believe that the mass of critical responses to the written inquiry and the media attention that it attracted last year have compelled the government to set up the committee to investigate further. STEP was asked whether a senior member would be prepared to be questioned by the panel to provide more extensive, formal evidence for the inquiry.

The Backlog

Jo informed the panel that the current performance of the probate service is a result of the ‘perfect storm’ of actions that have recently been taken, including centralisation of the offices, digitisation of the service, a lack of communication with the Registry and of course, an uplift in probate applications due to the Covid pandemic.


Jo explained to the committee that when the probate service was at its best, several years ago, a simple probate application would be returned within 4 weeks. Currently, a simple application is more likely to take up to 22 weeks and Jo recently had an application that took 9 months to obtain the grant of probate.


The panel requested suggestions for improving the application process and addressing the issues that were raised. Jo’s recommendations included bringing back efficient lines of communication with the probate registry so that practitioners and clients can help to resolve any issues which arise and move cases along. Additionally, it was suggested that the probate registry recruits additional staff to deal with the backlog, particularly some more experienced staff to deal with the complex cases. It was also proposed that the committee consults more extensively with professional bodies like STEP in order to resolve some of the immediate issues.

STEP’s survey and response

STEP surveyed its members in England and Wales last year to assess their experiences with the probate service and the effect that delays have had on their clients. It was clear from the replies that members feel that the service has declined over the last few years and some clients have encountered direct financial hardship as a result.

STEP proposed in its written inquiry response[1] that the registry should consider implementing transitional measures to address the urgent problems, such as outsourcing some of the complex applications to appropriately qualified legal practitioners in private practice to help clear the backlog.  STEP proposed working with the Law Society and other stakeholder organisations to identify the most appropriate firms to participate in this scheme.

STEP will continue to consult with the probate service and provide member feedback in order to improve its efficiency moving forwards.

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