Graphic showing a clock ticking with people waiting

Probate application delays persist

Probate applications remain delayed despite a slight decrease in the wait for paper applications, new data from HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has revealed.

For the 26,637 grants of probate issues in March 2023, the average timeline from submission to grant was 10.8 weeks – showing an increase from February 2023 which was 10.6, according to the data.

However, this is still a reduction from the 11 weeks recorded in January. The data also remains above the 9.2 week average seen over the last 12 months.

Of the 26,637 total number of grants issued, 21,232 were digital. For non-stopped applications, the average wait was 5.1 weeks, which shows an increase to February 2023 as it was 4.2 weeks.

For stopped digital applications, delays sat at an average of 17.7 weeks in March – a small reduction from February (17.8 weeks) and even larger reduction from January, which sat at 18.6 weeks.  All of which above the 15.6 week average for the last 12 months.

More on this, delays affecting paper applications which are not stopped displays a decrease as it currently sits at 16.4 weeks – as appose to 17.4 weeks in February. Yet, it is still a over the 7.8 week wait seen in March last year.

For those applications which are not stopped, the average wait is now at 29.3 weeks – a reduction from February (30.6 weeks), yet a considerable increase from 22.5 week wait seen in March 2022.

Commenting on the delays, Fiona Dodd, private client partner at Mayo Wynne Baxter, said:

“These delays are, rightly, causing huge frustration and anxiety for bereaved families who are having to pay the price as a result of faults within the system.

In the past few months, we’ve seen clients losing out on property sales as buyers have been unwilling to put up with the long wait times for a grant of probate to be issued, which is needed before a transaction can proceed. In a couple of cases, I have had to ask for an emergency application to save the sale of a large number of plots of land.

Due to stock market volatility arising from the war in Ukraine, we’ve also seen a deceased’s investment portfolio significantly lose value as executors have had to wait for the grant to be issued before being able to sell the shares.

These lengthy delays are exhausting for grieving families, who are already going through a difficult time dealing with their loss and trying to sort out the complex admin related to the death of a loved one. They are being left in limbo.”

Dodd added:

“The onus is on the government to come up with a way to get through the backlog and speed up the current process. In the meantime, we recommend seeking legal assistance with the estate administration to ensure the application is carefully prepared, and completed and submitted correctly.

Longer term, if clients are wanting to avoid problems in the future, we recommend they seek legal advice, have joint accounts, and make sure their pensions and insurance nominations are up to date.”

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.