Courts and Tribunals Services promise delays to be cleared by Christmas

The Law Society of England and Wales has met with HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) to discuss the continued delays to the grants of probate process.

HMCTS missed the November deadline. In a meeting with the Law Society, the service said grants of probate take about four weeks at present but by the time Christmas comes around, this period should be two weeks. HMCTS is also working to clear stopped applications as they are blocking the system.

New centralised centre in Birmingham

HMCTS said solicitors and lay people should no longer contact local registries with probate queries. The system has now been centralised and queries should go to the Birmingham Courts and Tribunal Service Centre which the service claims can deal with all enquiries. From Monday 2 December, the Birmingham centre will be open from 8am-8pm Monday to Friday, and from 8am-12pm on Saturdays.

Other plans include an online probate application in Welsh in 2020, and the issue of bilingual Welsh/English grants of probate.

Solicitors had reported delays of more than three months after the installation of new software in the spring. This was further compounded by people attempting to get ahead of the proposed probate fees hike, which was supposed to be implemented in April.

HMCTS report that some 450 firms have now signed up to the online system.

What is a grant of probate?

A grant of probate is a legal document that allows an executor to administer the estate of a person who has died. This includes distributing their assets to their rightful beneficiaries. To deal with a deceased person’s bank accounts, you need the legal authority to act – such as the grant of probate.

If an estate is worth less than £10,000 then a grant of probate is not needed. Nor is it necessary if someone owned everything jointly with another person as the ownership transfers to that person.

To apply for a grant of probate, the death needs to be registered first. In England and Wales this must be done within five days. In Scotland, it is eight days.

Then, the estate is valued including a property valuation. Probate fees are waived if an estate is worth less than £5,000.


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