In March the Probate Service introduced a new IT system for processing applications for probate.

Previously, applications for probate were processed and the grant of probate issued within two weeks of submitting the application. Within days of the new system being installed the software suffered a major glitch and the time taken to process an application increased from two weeks to several months. We are still waiting, in mid-June, for applications submitted in mid-March to be completed.

We cannot close the deceased’s accounts or sell or transfer assets without a grant of probate, which means that the debts of the estate cannot be paid and there is no money to pay inheritance tax that may be due.

It is also having an impact on house sales and purchases. Executors cannot complete the sale of a house until they have a grant of probate. This affects not only the beneficiaries of the estate, who will have to wait longer for the money they are entitled to, but also the other transactions in a chain of linked sales and purchases. Many sale and purchase chains start with an executor selling an empty house – if the buyer of that property has to sell their own house, then their buyers will have to wait until the executors at the end of the chain have received the grant of probate.

We regret that the situation is out of our hands and there is nothing we can do to speed up applications for probate. Probate Registries are not taking phone calls and emails just receive an automated reply. The Law Society has raised the profession’s concerns with HM Courts and Tribunals Service (which has repsonsibilty for Probate Registries) but has just been given the usual platitudes – see here