Up in the heir: Inheritors enduring huge delays after botched migration at UK probate service

Backlog not helped by spike in applications to dodge fee hike

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An IT glitch has contributed to a backlog in the number of UK probate applications, with users still reporting huge delays in the processing of their wills and probate grants.

The long-running issue can be traced back to April, when Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) transitioned to a new IT system, creating a backlog. In May, the Ministry of Justice admitted to delays "of up to four weeks" as a result of moving to a new case management system.

However, a further backlog was created in July prior to the proposed introduction of an increase in probate fees, with users hoping to get applications in before the hike came into force. The government has since dropped that policy.

One user told The Register the online customer-facing service is supposed to take 10 working days to fulfil orders for wills or grants of probate.

"My recent experience with a number of orders is that the process is taking well over 45 working days, with no information on why delays are occurring and when an order might reasonably be expected to be fulfilled," he said, adding, "just bland automated replies full of reassuring bullshit."

Another got in touch to say they had begun the process last year. "I'm still being told that I have no timescale available to me when I'm due to be issued my grant due to HMRC."

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said the department was working through the backlog, which it hopes to clear in the next few months.

However, solicitors told The Law Society Gazette this week that they remained sceptical the delays would be cleared.

Samantha Hamilton, of London and Essex-based firm Mullis & Peake, told the Gazette: "We still have delays on older applications, as the probate registry has admitted that new applications are being dealt with more quickly.

"We still await grants where the application was made in the summer. We have also seen an increase in errors that requires the return of the grant so it can be corrected and reissued."

Law Society president Simon Davis said: "Over the past several months, the delays to probate grant applications have caused undue stress for grieving families.

"We are relieved to hear these delays are starting to ease and will continue to work with HMCTS to reduce the backlogs and create a probate service fit for the 21st century." ®

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