Probate service ‘now in recovery after management team replaced’, says UK gov

The UK’s Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice has said that a new management team has been installed in the probate registry as part of a recovery plan to address persistent delays in issuing grants.
Mike Freer, a Member of Parliament, recently addressed a question in parliament, highlighting significant improvements in the recruitment, competence, productivity, and efficiency of call handling in the probate service. According to Freer, the current time frame for granting probate, following the submission of all necessary documents, is approximately 12 weeks.
This comes as HMCTS recently reported the continued probate application delays. For the 27,664 grants of probate issued in October, the average timeline from submission to grant was 15.2 weeks – showing a decrease from September which was 15.4, according to the data. Despite the slight decrease, this is still an increase from the 13.9 weeks recorded in June this year. The data also continues to remain above the 12-month average of 12.5 weeks.
Freer further noted that for the first time in recent months, the number of probate applications processed (disposals) has surpassed the number of new applications received. This surge in processing efficiency comes in the wake of 2023, a year that saw the highest number of probate applications since 2006, adding to the already high volume from the previous two years. To handle this increase, staffing levels have been augmented, and processes have been made more efficient.
The Institute of Legacy Management has also acknowledged the improvements in the probate service’s productivity since September 2023. They noted a significant reduction in the backlog of cases, approximately 13,000, and highlighted October 2023 for setting a new monthly record in probate processing. The Institute recognised the progress but also emphasised the ongoing challenge of managing the large number of unprocessed estates, which continues to affect bereaved families and charities waiting for probate grants.
Acknowledging that there is more work to be done, the government, through Freer’s comments in parliament, expressed an understanding that the service is not yet at its desired level of efficiency. However, the recent measures introduced are starting to show positive results.
In response to ongoing delays in probate grant issues, the House of Commons Justice Select Committee has initiated an inquiry into the performance of the probate registry. This inquiry aims to gather information on the capacity, resources, and delays within the probate service. It will also assess the impact of digitisation and centralisation efforts, including the effectiveness of the online probate portal. STEP is participating in the consultation, and submissions for evidence are open until January 22nd, 2024.

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