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The Law Society has raised questions over the government’s explanation of ongoing delays to grant of probate applications.
At the beginning of August, Edward Argar MP, parliamentary under-secretary of state at the MoJ, told parliament that average waiting times for grants in April, May and June were two, six and nine weeks respectively.
However, Ian Bond, chair of the Law Society’s wills and equity committee, described these figures as “disingenuous to say the least”.
Speaking to the Law Society Gazette he said the timings mentioned did not take account of the whole process.
“They don’t include the wait for the registrar to come to that registry to sign (or the application to be sent to another registry where the registrar will be). Nor do they include the time taken to print and send.’
Commenting on the delays, Andrew Fraser, partner at Fraser and Fraser, said: “As a firm, we are still experiencing a considerable backlog in grants of probate. For example, we are waiting to hear about some complicated matters that were submitted on 13 June and more simple matters that date to the first week of July. These have been submitted to two different offices, both of which seem to have similar issues in terms of delay.”
HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has also pointed to inaccurate or incomplete probate applications as a cause for the logjam.
Writing in a blog Jonathan Wood, national services director at HMCTS, stated: “A considerable number of applications for probate have to be stopped because we need further information or assurance before we can issue a grant of probate.
“We don’t count the time from stopping until we get the responses back… But it is clear that when applications are stopped it adds to the time it takes us to process.”
Speaking of his own firm’s experience, Mr Fraser said: “We have not had any applications stopped or returned because further information or assurances were required, so we are not aware of how much of an issue this may be in causing delays.”
Numbers of probate grant applications rose sharply in the spring as solicitors moved to beat a proposed fee increase which did not eventually take place.