Retired judge obtains £50 in compensation from HMCTS after probate delays

After a “gross delay” in his probate application, a retired solicitor-judge has extracted £50 in compensation from HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS), as reported by The Law Society Gazette.

The judge, Stephen Gold, has been “chronicling his ordeal of being the executor of his late aunt’s estate” which caused a 10-week delay in issuing probate after he applied online.

Gold complained to HMCTS as the probate service was saying online applications were taking “an average of 3.1 weeks” in March. When he applied in January, he was informed that applications for probate usually take 16 weeks.

Gold wrote:

“But although that average had been exceeded, I could not chase them by phone. They say ‘goodbye’ on a recorded phone message to DIYers who have not waited for 16 weeks. So, I waited.

After 16 weeks, I got through. The call handler was stern. It sounded as though she was typing as we spoke. The application would be ‘looked at soon’.

I received email notification that the application had been granted…the next day! Copies of the probate followed swiftly. Two communications asking for an explanation for the delay did not meet with any response.”

After making a formal complaint about the delay to HMCTS, the courts said that his application had initially been rejected for reasons which are unclear and that the service had then failed to follow up on the application until he called, as reported by The Law Society Gazette.

HMCTS offered “apologies” for any inconvenience caused. Gold wrote:

“I asked for a review by the complaints manager who came back to me within a reasonable time frame. By implication, the complaint was upheld. A delay of 10.5 weeks in issuing probate was acknowledged.

The review produced a ‘without prejudice’ goodwill payment of £50 which translated into just over a fiver for each week of delay. I regard this to be on the low side but I have accepted.”

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