New government data shows that the average waiting time for grants of probate seems to be stuck at 35 working days.

The Law Gazette reported that figures published by the Ministry of Justice show that probate grants took approximately seven weeks to be issued after an application was submitted between the time period October to December 2020. Reports for the three quarterly time periods before this also refer to seven-week waits.

The Ministry of Justice’s latest report added that the wait for grants can be affected if the case has been stopped for any reason. Probate grants that were stopped during October to December 2020 took 12 weeks on average to be issued, while those that were not stopped took under five weeks.

‘Slight’ improvement to times

On a similar note, the time it took to receive letters of administration for an estate rose from 11 weeks (for those with a Will) and eight weeks (without a Will) at the start of 2020, to around 14 and nine weeks respectively in in January to March 2020. However, HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) told the Law Society last month that it had had a ‘productive’ start to 2021 and that timeliness has slightly improved.

Because of the pandemic, the probate service had been prepared for a substantial increase in its caseload last summer, and extra members of staff were drafted in to deal with the expected increase in grant requests. During the months of July to September, applications peaked to 61,793 but dropped to 55,135 in October to December, which corresponds roughly to the first quarter of the year.

The Ministry of Justice reported a significant increase in the number of probate applications being made digitally, reflecting recent changes to process and the lockdown. Between October and December 2020, 46 percent of applications were made online, compared with 19 percent in the same quarter in 2019. Again, this figure will have increased over the past three months, as all solicitors must now apply for grants of probate through HMCTS’s digital system.

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