Probate Delays – Updated Regularly June 2021

Probate Delays Part 1 – How to avoid them

 

Updated 7/5/21 Current delays for non-IHT400 cases are (on average) are weirdly less if there was no Will at just under 9 weeks, just under 14 weeks if there was a Will. If an IHT 400 was required, then they typically take 4 weeks for the taxman to process before those times even start.  Many cases are stopped by HMCTS, sometimes for valid reasons, and that can lead to further delays.  But on the bright side, some get through far quicker: it’s a bit of a lottery – much like most things just at the moment. The main lesson is to get the Inheritance Tax forms in at the right time and triple check everything else. If you aren’t sure, we can introduce you to relatively inexpensive checking services. 

Before I start, I should say that the Probate Registry will ONLY deal with your lawyers, or if none, then the named executors. No one else has any right to information from them at this stage. (But after the Grant is issued, anyone can get a copy of it and the Will if there is one.) Please don’t chase if you are not the executor, you will just slow things down. Executors should not chase within 8 weeks. But what does 8 weeks actually mean?

If IHT400 forms are involved, NOTHING will happen until clearance has been obtained from HMRC and communicated by them to the Probate Registry. Probate forms should not be submitted until 20 working days after HMRC received the IHT forms. Sending them in earlier may cause further delays as they are put in a pile to await the clearance certificate. This does NOT apply if the IHT205 is appropriate as that goes in with the probate application direct to the Registry at Harlow. – What to do after a death? 

Is the application with the Registry?

Firstly, none of the time runs until the probate application has been received by the Registry, something which many people forget. Depending on the complexity of the estate and workload of the person putting the application together, that can mean the clock doesn’t start ticking for anywhere between 3 and 12 months – sometimes longer.   

So the first question is to confirm with whoever is doing the paperwork whether the application is in the hands of HMCTS? 

  • If yes, when was it sent?
  • If yes, has the fee been paid? 
  • If yes, have any questions been raised by HMCTS? (or HMRC) ? 
  • If yes, have they been fully answered? 
  • Has a clearance certificate been issued and the number communicated to the Registry by HMRC (not needed with IHT205).
  • If yes, then the clock should have started ticking!

Where an IHT 400 is required, 8 weeks means 12 weeks (3 months for all practical purposes) – 20 working days for  HMRC to process the IHT400 before you can send the probate application to HMCTS (the probate court) can start their 8 weeks (which is all over the place in reality.) We would strongly recommend checking after the 8 or 12 weeks, as sometimes questions don’t get through, or documents are just misplaced or never arrive at all.

How to sell a probate property fast

Probate Delays Part 2: What is the current situation at the Probate Registry?

Summary: don’t chase the Registry for at least 8 weeks after they received the application. If the IHT205 was not used, then allow at least a further four weeks for the Taxman (HMRC) to confirm to the Registry that tax matters are in order.  Remember, Inheritance Tax has to be paid BEFORE the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration can be issued. You need a clearance certificate.

Registry update February 18th 2021

Probate service
We (the Probate Registry) are currently unable to provide updates on how your case is progressing. If you have an urgent query please call us on 0300 303 0648, but please be aware we are offering limited telephone service. We are prioritising supporting people who have waited eight weeks after submitting their Probate applications.

If you are seeking support or advice before making an application please use our online website service.
Please visit https://www.gov.uk/applying-for-probate/apply-for-probate and scroll down to our “Get help and advice” section.

Typical probate waiting times:
Probate applications currently take eight weeks to be fully processed. They will contact you when they have reviewed your application if further information is needed. You do not need to do anything until then. (Ed: i.e. do nothing unless they contact you, unless they have had your application for more than 8 weeks. As stated below, you should always use recorded delivery, but the confirmation system at Royal Mail may not be working.)

How are Probate Applications handled?

First, the all-important expected timings for processing ACCURATE and FULLY COMPLETED applications. The target is 4 weeks, but the reality is 8, and sometimes more.

If you are NOT the executor, please don’t delay things further by asking for information, as you are not entitled to it under the Data Protection Act.

Executors are asked not to chase cases for at least 8 weeks, unless there genuinely special circumstances, or you will be delaying work.

Enquiries from executors ONLY: 0300 303 0648 or contactprobate@justice.gov.uk

If you just want the Probate Application Pack or have Inheritance Tax queries, call 0300 123 1072.

What has all this to do with us? We’re probate brokers, finding the right level of advice at the right cost for those who need a little – or a lot Legal Advice. We are NOT advisers, but can often point you in the right direction. Contact us on 03 300 102 300 or info@theprobatedepartment.co.uk

The Probate Application Process:

If an IHT400 is required, please make sure you send it to the HMRC 3 weeks before the probate application is submitted, ideally with a clearance number. Sending earlier may mean it takes longer for the two things to be tied together.

All non-professional applications are posted to Harlow, though it should be noted that Recorded Delivery records held by the Royal Mail are not always up to date. Harlow address is HMCTS Probate, Po Box 12625, Harlow, CM20 9QE.

Harlow is the initial administration centre for ALL applications by non-professionals where 

  1. All paper applications + supporting documents by personal applicants are scanned and converted into digital cases. Harlow is an administrative centre only does not do any further work on individual cases after scanning the documents sent to it.
  2. Harlow is also where all supporting documents are sent where personal applicants have applied and where legal professionals have applied digitally. These are scanned and then attached to the digital case.
  3. Once scanned in, the cases are then processed by Birmingham Courts and Tribunals Service Centre (CTSC) – all contacts are through the number and email above unless you are told otherwise in a specific case.
  4. Paper applications by legal professionals ONLY are NOT sent to Harlow, they are still sent to Registries and are dealt with as paper cases – we do NOT know which one you should use I am afraid!

16th September 2020 – encouraging news – many Grants are coming through in as little as 4 weeks!

1st September 2020 Guidance as to the replacement of affidavits with statements of truth in non-contentious probate processes

24th August 2020. The Ministry of Justice confirmed that the 8 week period still applies, executors can contact them before that ONLY if it is essential, so it would be prudent to ensure any property buyers are aware of the delays.

Please do not call us if a probate application has been submitted, we cannot help! [mbhi location=”The Probate Department”]

We’re not too sure what is happening at the moment – we have heard of people getting a grant in 8 days (clearly a miracle!) and still waiting with no response to enquiries after more than 3 months! Please try to avoid getting in the situation where you are being pressed to exchange contracts on the sale of the deceased persons’ property with no grant. If it does happen, email the Registry as soon as possible – but they may not be able to help, so manage buyers expectations in advance.

There are many reasons for probate delays, other than staffing problems:

  • Has the application actually been sent off? It can take a long time to extract the necessary information from some institutions. Ask the person in charge to confirm when the application was posted to the Registry.
  • Did you send it to the correct address? There is currently only one, which is: HMCTS Probate, PO Box 12625, HARLOW, CM20 9QE. Applications sent elsewhere may take a while to get into the system.
  • Have you paid, and included the payment reference when the application was posted?
  • Was it sent Recorded Delivery? Have you checked that it arrived with the Post Office?
  • Has any Inheritance Tax been paid, or an agreement reached with the Registry? Nothing will happen if not.
  • Has any correspondence been sent to the wrong address, perhaps because you misunderstood the form? If you don’t reply, nothing will happen.
  • Check that your payment to the Registry cleared.

Is Probate Needed?

Probate, how much does it cost?

The next paragraph is an advert, so skip over it if you have already applied.

If you are starting on the process, don’t forget we are Probate Brokers and can organise relatively inexpensive help ranging from half an hours advice through to a fully supported service where you help as much as you can OR the traditional route where you throw everything at a solicitor or other specialist and let them sort it all out. Either way, the cost comes from or should be reimbursed from the estate. Contact Us.

Probate Delays Updates

The Probate service are currently unable to provide updates on how your case is progressing in the first 8 weeks. If you have an urgent query please email them (not us!) Please do not contact them while they review your application.

Typical waiting times:
Probate applications currently (allegedly) take eight weeks to be fully processed. They will contact you when they have reviewed your application if they have any questions. You do not need to do anything until then.

Executors: If it is more than 8 weeks, email: contactprobate@justice.gov.uk

I found that a case I had personal involvement in had just been forgotten because the official involved had not actually asked the question they needed the executor to answer. Their staff are just as stressed (if not more so) than the rest of us. 

Further information:
• Please visit www.gov.uk/applying-for-probate to find out if you need to apply for Probate.
• Please visit www.gov.uk/applying-for-probate/apply-for-probate for information on how to apply online and how to access forms and guidance on Probate. This includes information on fees, where to send your Probate forms (PA1A and PA1P), and other forms supporting your application.

If you have an urgent enquiry:
Please email contactprobate@justice.gov.uk. They will respond to all emails as soon as possible.

8th April 2020 – most people are still sending applications to the wrong place, and phoning offices which are closed except for taking money. That aside, delays are allegedly down to 4 weeks once all the ducks are in a row (HMRC approval and payment where necessary, documents in correct place, documents correct, payment correct, payment and documents tied together, no queries). Get one of those wrong and you are not even in the pile to be processed!

Download latest Probate Registry procedure and contact

Has the Grant been issued? This is where to go to check, though we understand that there are serious delays in updating newly issued cases.

Probate Delays for technical or staffing issues.

 

Probate Disputes/ Arguments 20th December 2019 We have just discovered that there may be a delay of up to 5 months in making copy Wills and Grants available after probate has been granted. This WILL lead to cases where it is (in theory) too late to contest a Will or Grant within the normal 6 month time limit. It will be at a judges 

discretion whether to accept an out of time application, which means more cost and delay. This makes earlier action if there may be a dispute more important, and we have a number of excellent firms who can help in such cases at relatively modest cost. Don’t wait until there is time for the money to be gone!!

It still seems to be pretty much a waste of time to phone Registries, except to make payment on their payment only line. Personally, I would send a cheque to save time. Always used Recorded or Special Delivery.

We did have one enquiry where it turned out that the grant had been issued months before, but for one reason or another, never turned up in the executors’ post! You can check if a grant has been issued HERE and also obtain a copy. Make sure the probate delay is real!

We can’t help with probate delays directly, being a private company, but if you read on you will find out what you can do if the probate registry has not issued your Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration within 8 weeks of it being submitted and complete. The clock stops if the Registry asks any further questions until those questions are fully answered.

As the proposed fee increases have been dropped, for the moment, things should get back to normal.

Please be aware that the majority of grants are printed and posted from bulk printing and that grants can take up to 48 hours to be posted (more over a weekend) after the 4 weeks so please allow up to five days for delivery.

Do not to commit to an exchange or completion deadline when putting properties on the market to sell without Probate being in place as long probate holdups may not be able to accommodate these until the backlog has cleared.

All cases were being processed in date order, a policy which has now been amended to leave those already facing longer probate delays worse off. Please note all registries are working to the same time scales and if need be, work is being shared to ensure that all Registries are issuing around the same date.

Please only contact the Registries about probate holdups if the matter is extremely urgent or if you believe your application was received by the Registry more than 8 weeks ago, and then use the probatefeedback@justice.gov.uk email.

They are unable to expedite an application for any other reason.

  • Copy Wills

Although no copy will is automatically provided with the grant, please ensure that you submit two plain, uncertified A4 sized copies of the will with your applications.

  • Calls from clients
  • recent probate delays had lead to an increase in telephone calls received from executors/administrators to chase the progress of an application on the advice of their solicitor. While the Registrars understand the frustration of executors, they ask that this is not suggested to clients as they are unable to discuss any aspect of the application with them UNLESS they have made a personal application.

Please be aware that the majority of grants are printed and posted from bulk printing and that grants can take up to 48 hours to be posted after the above date and so please allow up to five days for delivery.

Please be assured the team are continuing to do all we can to process these cases as quickly as possible.

  • Copy Wills

If your application was straightforward…

According to the Ministry, probate cases that have not been granted within 8 weeks need investigating PROVIDED that the Registry has raised no questions with the executor. This stops the clock and the 4 weeks does not restart until the question has been fully resolved.

Web: www.gov.uk/hmcts

ADVICE: Play it safe, triple check the forms, send by recorded or special delivery, pay by cheque or bank draft and check that is paid in by the Registry. Then sit and wait.  We suspect waiting times would come down if everyone was not chasing up their grants!

How to find a Will – Lost or Mislaid?

Being an executor can be tough, why not check out our guide on what to do after a death?

Need help choosing a funeral director?

How to register a death?

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15 thoughts on “Probate Delays – Updated Regularly June 2021”

  1. FYI Probate delays (not?): just had my DIY Probate application approved after only 3 weeks, so maybe things are improving at HMCTS? Estate was under IHT but only just. Thanks for all the advice & info on your site, thought you might like to have this update.

  2. I have been waiting over two years now to get our mum’s estate sorted. 16 letters and several complaints. This has been passed to 3 different registries, I have been lied to, misled by ambiguous and conflicting paperwork from them and my sister has died during all of this so has missed out on her inheritance. I have had a mental breakdown because of this and I’m a pensioner and don’t have the money to use solicitors.

  3. Amanda Freeman

    Feeling totally lied to by the executors of my late mother’s will . A very straight forward, no inheritance tax required. I have done most of the work before and during this 15 month period. While friends of mine in a similar situation were completed in 8 weeks. So stressful, wish the executor had not been a solicitor!

  4. Sandra J Mitchell

    My husband died July 2020 most of his assets were tax free the solicitor submitted probate forms in October 2020 & we still haven’t had notification of probate repeated calls to solicitors are expensive the latest information is that HMRC have blocked the process I have paid out over £10,000;from my meager savings & wonder how much longer I will have to wait

  5. Oh dear!
    There do seem to be an unusual number of “stops” where the Registry raises queries – most of which are sensible.
    That makes it pretty much impossible for the family to find out what the problem is if a professional is handling the case. The Registry may refuse to answer even legitimate questions from family executors, saying that they can only speak to the professional – which means the professional charges you for the time: that can mean a lot of extra cost, especially if you are being charged in 6 minute units, and then the Registry takes 30 minutes (5 units) to even answer the phone, then another 2 to get an answer. Then the solicitor writes to you – maybe another 2 units. That could easily be well over £300 for one chase. Chances are it isn’t the solicitors fault – but you will probably never find out!

  6. A professionals reputation is on the line when they take on full responsibility, so they will need to check things carefully, which takes time. But that does seem excessive if it really was straightforward!
    For those who are happy to take prime responsibility, we can organise supporting help at a tiny fraction of the cost of a full service. Just get in touch!

  7. The cheapest option is to let the solicitor deal with it – the more you ask them to chase, the bigger the bill will be. Hopefully, they will do a good job for you, but every call you make to them will generate significant extra costs.
    You could call or write to HMCTS Probate PO Box 12625 HARLOW CM20 9QE or email contactprobate@justice.gov.uk but it is possible they will only deal with the solictor.
    Many people have tried to ring the Registry on 0300 303 0648 but given up with very long call waiting times.
    Life is just not the same with people working from home.
    Just ask what the hold up is – and good luck!

  8. Jonathan Armstrong

    My solicitor and legal representative sent my late mothers IHT400 & IHT421 to HMRC on the 18 January 2021 and on the 15th Febuary I signed the the Statement of Truth for the Probate Registry digital application. There were no executors as my mothers Will was renounced and she owned NO TAX as she had left her entire estate to my late father who passed away 6 months after her and whom I had recieved Letters of Administration for. On March 22nd my solicitor confirmed he’d swooped emails with the Probate Registry in Newcastle confirming they were processing the application; as HMRC did’nt send out a letter re the IHT 421 certification. My solisitor chased the Registry on the 8th and again on the 19th of April and was again told the application was being proceed.
    On May 21st, twenty weeks after the IHT400 was sent to HMRC I both emailed and phoned the Registry and was unceremoniously refused to be dealt with, being told they would only deal with a solisitor or an executor, even though I’d provided a copy of my Late fathers Letters of Administration appointing me as the estates legal representative. My solicitor duly sent another email and was simply told again it was at the CTSC Digital Application Probate Registry. Again I waited another two weeks before attempting to phone the Probate Registry again on the 2nd June 2021. Once again they refused to provide me with any information apart claiming the delay was caused by the Coronavirus pandemic! This was not true as the Government’s website claims they had taken on extra staff from December 2020 to deal with any delays and 4-8 weeks was the average time to process applications. I challenged the Probate Registy’s representatives explanation and was told they had requested extra information from my solicitor. I asked my solicitor what this extra information was and was told he supplied HMRC IHT406 & IHT436 on the 9th of Febuary 2021. I asked my solisitor to chase the Probate Registry again on 11th June, exactly six months to the day the IHT400 & 421 forms were sent to HMRC. This morning my solicitor recieved a reply from the Registry claiming they had not recieved the IHT421 from HMRC! My solicitor is therefore having to resubmit IHT421 to HMRC and we have no idea when I will eventually receive my grant of representation. Additionally because of this delay I’m unable to take advantage of the Stamp duty amnesty to help to sell my late parents property.
    I believe there is a deep rooted problem with the HMRC IHT process especially the IHT421 and with the Probate Registry’s accountability. Over six months to process a Grant of Administration is disgraceful and the Probate Registry needs to be held to account.

  9. It is important not to submit the application for a grant until HMRC have had time to allocate a reference and put the details in the system to ensure the Registry can tie the two things together first time.
    I am not suggesting this is what happened, just making the point that IHT400 etc need to be submitted well before the application for grant is sent in.
    And it would not be the first time that something correctly submitted has been lost.

    The bigger concern (for me) is the refusal to speak to Executors when a professional is involved – a simple enquiry can easily add £100 or more to the legal bill, way more if it has to be chased repeatedly.

  10. I am sole executor to my late mothers estate. I submitted on-line everything on 4th March 2021 and got an IHT reference (no IHT due).
    However I made an error with date of death on there form, and the Probate Registry contacted me by email on 14 April and I responded and corrected the error same day by return. It took them a week to look at my response.
    I managed to get through by telephone yesterday and was told that whenever a query is raised the application goes to a Stopped Status. currently the department dealing with stoped cases is looking at those dated 1st March!
    I know I made an error, this is a simple case, everything else looks good on the application no other issues raised. I am being unjustly punished for a slip of the keyboard.

  11. Good Lord – so a slip of the pen has delayed things by around FOUR months – that is awful.
    A lesson to all the rest of us – triple check every aspect of the forms, then get someone else to check.
    One of the firms we introduce people to is willing to do those checks for a modest fee, but nothing is totally proof against bureaucracy – try dealing with the Office of the Public Guardian!
    That said, things must be right, so they are correct to be picky – but there is no sound reason to penalise errors quite so dramatically,

  12. With regard to waiting an unbelievable length of time for probate to complete,solicitors are not always efficient .Probate have now taken six months to complete my father’s estate and say that delay has been due to the solicitors not furnishing enough information even after 2 requests to do so.I am still waiting have had to cancel a holiday and a request for a team leader to speak to me about the delay was met with you can expect a response in 20 days time.We do not need this ,the bereavement process does not need more hurt from so called officials who do not care about us.

  13. This is what you get if you contact the Registry direct (not too sure where they get the 8 weeks from – though it does very occasionally happen – add at least 4 weeks for an IHT400 for the Taxman to do his – or her – bit!):
    “Thanks for your email to the Probate team at HM Courts & Tribunals Service. This message is automatically generated; please do not reply.

    Due to COVID-19, we are currently experiencing an increased demand on our service. We will take longer to answer your call and to respond to your e-mail. Unfortunately, we cannot provide updates on case progression over the phone, e-mail and webchat.

    Probate applications currently take up to eight weeks to be fully processed from the date of receipt of your documentation. Please bear with us while we experience high demand on our service, we will contact you when we have reviewed your application. “

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