We have often written about the delays at the Probate Office and unfortunately it is a theme we are returning to.
Currently for online applications, the Probate Office are advertising a 16 week turnaround. We are often asked by clients to phone and chase but if we do and the application has not been made in the last 16 weeks, they will not accept our enquiry.
The phrase “in 16 weeks” has also taken a new twist. As a probate practitioner, we have to submit our application online unless the estate does not meet the conditions for online filing (usually on intestacy or if there is a problem). The original Will has to follow by post. It is now quite common for the Probate Office to take 3 weeks to acknowledge our application. No surprise to guess that the 16 week period starts from the date the application is acknowledged.
We have recently been chasing our August and September applications. We were surprised to find on one case, it had been delayed as “fee outstanding”. According to the Probate Office, this particular case had been put on hold because the fee had not been paid.
If a member of the general public applies as Executor, the application fee has to be paid in advance. For authorised probate practitioners such as ourselves, the fee is paid by Direct Debit when the probate has been granted, so the case manager’s answer was implausible.
A few days later we were given the same excuse again on another case. This time we spoke to somebody more aware of the situation who said there had been a glitch in the computer system during August and September and many applications had been marked as fees outstanding when they should not have been.
To make matters worse, the case officer said the Probate Office were aware of this but had not carried out a review, as they were sure that after 16 weeks, the professional would phone and chase. A diabolical way to run an office.
We have also received from the probate office, numerous spurious queries such as questions on capacity on executors unable to act, qualifications of practitioners, questions on legacies already explained on application. The reason for this is that it moves a case from an in-tray to a “need to ask questions” pile, which all helps the statistics.
So sorry for the wait, it is not snow or leaves, just an ineffective department.
Authored by Director of GH Probate Ltd., Barry Jefferd.
Our Probate service is provided through GH Probate Limited. GH Probate is the trading style of GH Probate Limited. Registered in England and Wales number 9630102. Registered Office: St George’s House, George Street, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire PE29 3GH.
Authorised to carry out the reserved legal activity of non-contentious probate in England and Wales by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales.