As recently as May, data released by HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) revealed the average wait between submission and grant issue for probate applications was over eight weeks.
The findings will come as no surprise to those in the industry who have experienced increasing delays over the last two years, with both staff cuts and teething issues with the new online system blamed. Many individuals who have suffered the loss of a close relative or friend will of course not be aware.
When questioned, 60% of industry professionals also said that the online probate service wasn’t able to handle complex or technically difficult cases, and 53% said they were no longer able to reach HMCTS staff to help provide guidance with complex cases.
The biennial survey, which examines the current state of the probate market, also found that nearly three quarters (71%) of practitioners agreed with an extension to the current 12-month claims window for loss relief on share price falls for inheritance tax. Adding yet further weight to a recent Financial Times report that there is “growing pressure” upon ministers to do so.
What can be done to ease matters: sadly, very little once the application is made to HMCTS. However, preparation is the key. Often Executors of Wills do not think about probate application until several weeks or even months after the date of death which compounds the issue.
Additionally, more than a third of practitioners reported that up to 50% of their clients only discovered they had been appointed Executor after the person who left the Will had died leading to further delays.
If release of property equity is urgent to pay Inheritance Tax bills you need to know the property can in fact be marketed by the Executors before probate is granted and indeed, they can even agree a sale subject to contract. However, they cannot exchange contracts until they receive grant of probate.
Overly complex or technically challenging Will writing can cause further delays. Clear, precise and simple Will writing will always reduce the time for HMCTS to grant probate. Using a qualified professional to draft your Will is often advantageous in this regard.
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