HMCTS to clear probate case backlog by 2021, report suggests

HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has this month published an overview of how the department plans to reduce the probate backlog and ensure bereaved families can close estates as soon as possible.

The report comes after the regulator revealed that the average probate application time increased significantly from two to 12 weeks, while a third of all probate cases in the last year faced unnecessary delays.

The backlog has been primarily attributed to a surge in applications lodged in response to a planned rise in probate fees – which ultimately never went ahead – and the closure of District Registries in favour of an underwhelming online service, as well as the increase in the death rate associated with Covid-19.

However, HMCTS has now outlined the actions it is planning to take to resolve the estimated 29,000 case backlog.

This includes increasing staff capacity to provide additional administrative support, reducing the waiting time on digital applications, and trialling a new digital notifications solution.

Combined, the measures could increase capacity to “reach more than 6,000 grants a week from December” – meaning the backlog could be cleared next year.

Welcoming the plans, Matthew Lagden, CEO of the Institute of Legacy Management, said: “We are delighted to see that HMCTS has expanded its probate team to help increase capacity, and that the digital service is speeding up the current process of notifications.

“These steps give us confidence that HMCTS has the capacity in place to deal with the backlog and the expected rise in applications through the winter.”

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