When navigating through the probate process there is no specific length of time that it will take to complete, it is common for probate to take around 12 months, but even the smallest unforeseen hurdle can add weeks or months to this.
In this blog, we are going to look at some of the main reasons behind the delays.
Grant of probate delays
Recently HM Courts & Tribunals Service issued a formal apology regarding the time it has taken them to issue grants of probate of late, with its National Services Director, Jonathan Wood acknowledging that the process has become slower due to teething problems as a result of reforms to the current program.
This led to a large backlog of cases during 2019 with some taking an additional 10-12 weeks in some cases. Also, the processing of a large number of applications in recent months have been delayed due to further reassurances needed before issuing a grant. In particular, missing documents and form anomalies, leading to more setbacks.
To help this, the department has issued guidance to help reduce processing pauses, including:
- Making sure you provide the IHT form when you submit your application
- Double-checking all the names on the application form are the same as on the will
- Signing the statement of truth
- Signing the forms
- Sending the right fee
Lack of understanding of probate duties
Another of the main reasons behind probate delays is a lack of understanding of probate duties as some people who have been chosen to manage the affairs of the estate will not know what is expected of them.
When choosing an individual you should pick someone who understands the steps involved and what is required of them, know the location of the Will, know-how and where to access up to date information to make an inventory of the estate, and where possible start the process as soon as possible.
Executors with experience will understand some steps are dependent on others (e.g. funds from the estate cannot be distributed to beneficiaries until a Grant of Probate has been granted) and limit the likelihood of events which could cause unnecessary delay.
Contentious probate delays
At any point, an interested party may bring ongoing probate to a halt by bringing a contentious probate claim.
While it may not be possible to prevent a dispute from occurring, conflicts can be averted by being professional, honest, transparent, and engaging in regular communication with stakeholders.
Future disputes can ultimately be avoided by ensuring they have the necessary Will advice from the outset. For example, where step-families are involved, it may be advisable to implement a Trust Will, thereby ensuring that assets are protected for the benefit of children from a previous relationship.
Balancing Speed and Accuracy
Delays in the probate process are common practice, but most can be avoided by planning ahead at the time of writing a Will.
Solicitors specialising in Wills, estate planning, and probate should explain the importance of selecting an executor who can complete the process in accordance with the law and the wishes expressed in the Will, but it is important not to rush through the process as it may lead to more time being spent correcting mistakes.