Probate Registry Delays and COVID-19

Last year, probate registries experienced significant delays in issuing Grants of Probate. In the past, applications for a Grant had taken up to 2 weeks, but in lieu of the delays, applications were taking 12 weeks and longer to process.

This was the result of a surge in applications prior to planned fee increases, closure of regional probate registries and changes to the internal systems. This in turn led to delays at HMRC who took over 5 weeks to issue inheritance tax receipts in taxable estates. In total, therefore, it was taking up to 3-4 months to obtain a Grant.

Earlier this year, probate registries managed to reduce their time scales and applications were taking no longer than 3 weeks to process. However, following the outbreak of COVID-19, probate registries are facing the same delays that we saw last year. This is largely due to a reduced workforce because of the furlough scheme and 80% of their staff working remotely. The time taken to obtain a Grant of Probate has once again risen and with limited telephone lines, it has become incredibly difficult to even obtain an update on an application once it has been sent.

Probate registries have tried to implement measures to tackle the delays, including taking applications online. HMRC have also started to accept digitalised signatures and will submit the inheritance tax receipt directly to the relevant probate registry. With more staff returning to work at the probate registries, it is hoped that time scales will start to come down again.

Despite these delays, we are on hand to provide assistance in applying for probate and should you have any questions in regards to applying for a Grant of Probate in a deceased’s estate, please contact Ellie Holland on eholland@wilkes.co.uk or 0121 733 8000.

The Wilkes Partnership have one of the largest Private Client teams in the Midlands and our solicitors are based across our Birmingham and Solihull Offices and can offer appointments to suit via telephone or video call.

Eleanor Holland
Eleanor Holland

Managing Partner, Private Client