Our recent experience with probate service delays

Our experience, which is confirmed by the reported statistics, is that there are increasing delays in grants of representation being issued by the probate service.

The statistics

In their quarterly report for April to June 2022, HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) confirmed that the probate service continues to experience an increase in the number of applications.

Applications for grants of probate (where there is a will) are being issued quicker than other types of grants of representation. On average, a grant of probate will be issued 7 weeks after the application is received, while other grants are issued within 12 – 16 weeks.

There is a significant difference in the processing times for digital and paper applications. The HMCTS Management Information report for September 2022 records that on average, it takes twice as long to process paper applications. The reported timescales are as follows:

  • Digital applications took 4.2 weeks without stops and 15.2 weeks when stopped.
  • Paper applications took 11.9 weeks without stops and 27.3 weeks when stopped.

Applications can be stopped for various reasons, typically where the probate service spot an error in the application. It is not just the probate service that is experiencing delays, there are also registration delays for Lasting Powers of Attorneys (LPAs) in England and Wales. The Office of the Public Guardian has advised that as of 1 November 2022, it will take them up to 20 weeks to process a completed LPA application.

Our experience

Over the last few months, we have experienced waiting times of between 16 – 20 weeks from submission of the application to receiving the grant, without any stops.

What we encounter on the ground does not correlate with reported performance levels. There is also a significant increase in wait time when contacting the probate service to obtain an update on the submitted applications.  We understand that the delay is due to the probate service staff prioritising processing applications over keeping up with these communications.

The probate service has previously confirmed that they are paying particular attention to paper applications and training staff to help the probate registries (who predominantly review those applications) to deal with the backlog and keep up with new submissions. We hope that the steps planned by the probate service improves the performance levels quickly, to avoid any further increase in delays.