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/ 14 Feb 2024

Why are Probate lines closing early? Probate delays in 2024

We are commonly asked how long it takes to obtain a Grant of Probate, and we used to confidently say once the application is made to the Probate Registry it will be issued in 5-10 working days.

Why is it now taking anything from 8 weeks to 8 months and why have they reduced the probate helpline hours?

Claire Martin


Head of Private Client

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From today, Wednesday 14th February, Civil Servants at the probate registry will not pick up the phone after lunch for the next 12 weeks so that staff can be diverted away from the phones to make them available to work on the backlog of applications.

Why is it now taking anything from 8 weeks to 8 months to obtain a Grant of Probate and why have they reduced the probate helpline hours?

Probate delays in 2024 – what is causing them?

Grieving relatives are unable to sell assets before they are granted the document from the probate registry. With delays of up to 8 months, people are facing property deals falling through and risking interest penalties from inheritance tax bills. What has caused these significant delays?

Issues with the new online system:

A new online system, with new software was being trialled with a limited number of law firms before lockdown. Since lockdown the online system has become compulsory for anyone applying for a Grant to administer an Estate, however the online system does not deal with all situations, including many common ones, so paper applications still have had to be made in a number of instances.

Access to Probate Registries and their expertise:

In instances in which paper applications are still necessary, you are no longer able to send them to any of the national Probate Registries, there is only one address to send paper applications to and they will share out the applications, meaning you will not know which Registry is processing your application. When sending in original documents to support the online application there is a separate central address, and historically entering these onto their system has caused delays for the information being communicated to the Registries dealing with the applications.

Changes to the court structure:

The Probate Registry is no longer independent from the rest of the court system, but falls within it and staff have been redeployed. Whereas previously there were 30 full time Registrars nationally, who have specialised training and experience, there now are under 3 full time Registrars.

Continual changes and disruptions:

The online system is under continual review and has been upgraded and changed several times so that more types of application can be made using this rather than paper applications.

The method of linking up the reporting to HMRC when an Inheritance Tax return has to be submitted has changed several times, most recently in January 2024.

The impact of people working from home in lockdown combined with the new process and software, and its continual changes has resulted in a significant backlog in processing applications for Grant of Probate.

How can you reduce the risk of probate delays?

  • Carefully read the guidance provided on the government website www.gov.uk
  • Carefully read the instructions on each page of the online portal, and provide accurate answers to all questions, omitting none.
  • If you do not know the answers to any question save the application online, and do not submit it until you have checked and are able to provide a response.
  • Where documents are requested ensure you have the original documents to hand prior to submitting the application online.
  • If the original Will is in poor condition, such as tears or rips or stains make sure you use the box provided for extra information to explain the condition so it can be considered.

How can our probate team help?

The most important thing to do is to seek expert legal advice where you are unsure that your application is correct or being made correctly. Our London probate team can assist you throughout all or part of the process and may even be able to identify post death tax planning opportunities to benefit the next generation.

Contact us today on +44 (0) 207 228 0017 or via the form below.


Send us a message

If you have a probate query, contact one of our private client lawyers by filling out the form below or call us on +44 (0) 207 228 0017.

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