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What is happening with Grant of Probate applications?
Whether it is an individual executors dealing with an estate or a professional, one thing we both have in common is having to apply for a Grant of Probate. Normally this is a straight forward process and the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration will be issued a matter of weeks after the application has been submitted. However, at the moment this service seems to have ground to a halt, with many still waiting for Grants several months after sending in the application.
What is a Grant of Probate?
A Grant of Probate is an order of the Court that grants power to the Executor or personal representative (where there is no Will) to be able to deal with the estate. Without this, the Executor or personal representative will not be recognised by the banks or Land Registry etc. even though they are named in the Will. Therefore, the Grant of Probate needs to be obtained before any estate assets can be dealt with.
How to apply for Grant of Probate:
There are two elements of applying for a Grant of Probate: an Oath sworn by the Executor or Personal Representative confirming that they are entitled to make the application and that they will deal with the estate; and an Inheritance Tax account. The form of the Inheritance Tax account will differ depending whether or not the estate is taxable and we would strongly suggest that you obtain legal advice if you believe that tax is payable.
Both the Oath and the Inheritance Tax account will then need to be submitted to the Probate Registry for consideration before they will issue the Grant of Probate.
The increase in fees:
The Government is due to increase the fees that are payable to the Court to issue the Grant of Probate. At the moment the fees are £155 and 50p per additional copy. The Government proposes to increase these significantly and for the fees to be based on the value of the estate, rather than the current set fee for all. Please see below the proposed fee increases:
Value of Estate
Up to £50,000
Between £50,000 and £300,000
Between £300,000 and £500,000
Between £500,000 and £1million
Between £1million and £1.6million
Between £1.6million and £2million
These changes were supposed to be implemented in April 2019, however they have been delayed due to the other impending issues facing Parliament at the moment. As you can imagine, this means that there has been a “rush” in people trying to get applications in quickly before any fee change comes into effect, and as a result, the Probate Registries have become overwhelmed.
The closure of regional offices:
Due to the Governments plans to centralise services a large number of regional Probate Registries across the country have been closed and their work sent to the bigger offices. This operation has caused a huge upheaval with in the system and in the short term has again caused a delay in Grants being issued. For details of your nearest Probate Registry office click here: https://courttribunalfinder.service.gov.uk/search/postcode?aol=Probate
New IT system:
The Court has recognised the strain on the current system and implemented a new software in March which was designed to fast track the process and allow applications to be dealt with online. Unfortunately, shortly after the new software was installed there have been several glitches meaning that applications haven’t been dealt with as effectively as they should have been. The problems with the system have reportedly now been rectified, but this has contributed to the rising backlog at the Probate Registry.
While just one of these issues would be enough to cause a delay in obtaining a Grant of Probate having all of these issues occur at once has been described in the media as being “outrageous”. There can be serious repercussions to an estate where there is such a lengthy delay in receiving the Grant of Probate, especially if the estate is liable for Inheritance Tax so if you have any concerns about this we would strongly recommend that you seek specialist legal advice for probate.
To make matters worse, it has become virtually impossible to contact the Probate Registry with telephone calls and emails going unanswered, so we are all left without the ability to obtain an update on applications. These issues paint the profession as a whole in a bad light and we have even had clients of other firms contact us to ascertain whether their solicitor is at fault for the delays and lack of updates.
For more information about the process of applying for the Grant of Probate or dealing with the administration of an estate please click on this link: https://www.hcbgroup.com/site/contact/cardiff/probate-solicitors-in-cardiff/#
If you have any queries about obtaining a grant of probate, please do not hesitate to contact one of our friendly Probate Solicitors in Cardiff who you will guide you through the process from start to finish.