UK government says probate service is now in recovery after management team replaced

Thursday, 11 January 2024
The UK’s Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice has said that a new management team has been installed in the probate registry as part of a recovery plan to address persistent delays in issuing grants.

In reply to a parliamentary question, Mike Freer MP said there is now a 'distinct improvement' in recruitment, competency, productivity and call-handling. The average length of time for a grant of probate is now 12 weeks following receipt of all the documents required, he said.

For the first time, he said, disposals of probate applications in the past few months have outstripped receipts as a result of the recovery measures. The level of grants issued has been running at about 8,000 more over the past two months than receipts. This comes despite 2023 seeing the largest volume of probate applications received by the service since 2006, on top of above-average receipts in the preceding two years. Freer noted that staffing levels have been increased and processes have been streamlined.

The Institute of Legacy Management has also commented on the increase in the probate service’s productivity since September 2023, reducing the volume of cases in the system by around 13,000. October 2023 set a new monthly record for probate outputs. 'While it is early days, there are signs that the probate service may have turned a corner’, it said. ‘Nonetheless, we are all too aware that there is still a hefty build-up of unprocessed estates in the system and how challenging it can be for bereaved families and charities alike when waiting for probate to be granted.'

The government has agreed that there was still more to be done. 'I appreciate that the service is not yet where we would want it to be', Freer told parliament. 'But…we are starting to see some impact as a result of the measures we have introduced.'

The House of Commons Justice Select Committee has launched an inquiry into the probate registry's performance, following continuing delays in the issue of grants. The inquiry will take evidence on capacity, resources and delays across the probate service. It will also examine the impact of digitisation and centralisation, including the effectiveness of the online probate portal. STEP is responding to the consultation and evidence can be submitted until 22 January 2024.


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