probate delays
Law Society calls for “reimbursement” over probate delays
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The Law Society has called for users of the Probate Service to be “reimbursed appropriately” if minimum service levels are not met, while also highlighting how delays are creating friction between law firms and their clients.

The Society said ongoing holdups were causing additional costs, avoidable interest payments and slow progress with the sale of assets. These factors, it added, were leading to clients “blaming [firms] for the delays [and] expecting solicitors to be able to resolve issues beyond their control”.

Lawyers were meanwhile facing “frustration and unnecessary stress, with some questioning whether they would remain in the profession given the impact this is having on their health”.

The Society suggested His Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) should introduce a minimum service standard to provide “clear processing times, guidelines and performance metrics”. This, it added, would help combat the ongoing “lack of certainty and predictability around timings within the Probate Service”.

Earlier this month Parliament’s Justice Select Committee published written submissions and interview transcripts from its inquiry into probate delays.

Giving evidence to the committee, Alex McDowell, vice chair of Remember a Charity (a consortium of 200 charities), stressed his organisation enjoyed a constructive relationship with HMCTS, which has been “very proactive and supportive” of the charity sector in recent years.

However, he said: “We would not be having this inquiry if we were not asking questions about the impact of delays. That has had a direct impact on us, both the time for an individual will to gain a grant of probate and the overall backlog in the number of estates. We have all the ingredients for a good service, but we want that maintained, with understanding of the need for an evolution of a service.”

He told the committee that his organisation estimates around £800m of charitable legacy income is currently tied up in wills awaiting a grant of probate. He added that this provided “yet another challenge” for a charity sector that was already struggling with issues such as inflation and increased demand.

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