Probate application delays at worst level since 2019

The delays affecting probate applications are at their worst point since 2019, new data from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has revealed.

The MoJ said that during the first quarter of 2023 there were 69,000 applications for probate grants, 89% of which were made digitally, with legal professionals accounting for 63% of applications.

They suggest that the mean average time from application submission to grant issue was nine weeks, while the median was five weeks – a one-week drop from Q4 2022.

Average (mean) time for grants of representation issued from application submission by the Probate Service, July to September 2019 to January to March 2023 (Source: Ministry of Justice)

It’s said the current timeliness of grants is “the worst it’s been since 2019” – though they suggest this is due to some work to focus on older cases which is why the median hasn’t been impacted in the same way.

However, comparing the MoJ’s data with figures published by HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), delays seem to be significantly longer than the MoJ suggests. HMCTS report that the average timeliness from submission to grant for all probate applications in Q1 2023 was 10.8 weeks – nearly two full weeks longer than the MoJ figure. It is, however, understoof

What’s more, HMCTS also provide more recent figures which revealed delays soared to an average of 15.5 weeks in April – a trend which has continued into May where applications have taken an average of 15.4 weeks.

It is, however, understood that the discrepancies in the datasets are largely down to different methods of aggregation from different sources as well as separate levels of cleaning applied to each set of data.

Regarding average timelines for letters of administration with a will and without a will, the MoJ said applications took 25 and 14 weeks respectively for January to March 2023, though these formed a smaller proportion of all grants issued, 4% and 20% respectively.

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