The Problems with Speed and the Current Probate Applications – Can we Speed up the Probate Administration

You may have seen in the press recently that the pandemic has seen a significant slowdown in the Probate process, both in the interplay between the two bodies that manage probate applications, HM Revenue and Customs, and District Probate Registries, and in the various banks and financial institutions, that hold assets of the deceased.

The process for applying for a Grant of Probate relies on the Executor, or the Administrator (if there is no valid will), identifying what is in the estate, declaring this to the HM Revenue and Customs, via a Capital IHT400 form, and arranging for the estate to settle any inheritance tax due. Tax will be due six months after the end of the month in which death occurred, and has to be paid before control of the estate’s assets can be obtained. Delays are compounded as probate follows a rigid process.

Banks, building societies, estate agents, accountants and other assets holders, may face delays in obtaining the information you need for the HM Revenue and Customs.

HM Revenue and Customs is working hard to process probate applications, but many of its agents now work remotely, adding further delays. Getting the tax released from asset holders, or loaned by beneficiaries and executors, is also taking time with remote ID verification a particular problem.

It is often misunderstood that a District Probate Registry is in fact a subdivision of the High Court of Justice, and therefore it is a Court process. The District Probate Registry have to wait for notification from HMRC – IHT Office, that enough money has been paid in respect of the IHT liability. This department is dealing with high volumes of applications, adding yet more delays. The Courts are then taking up to nine weeks to review and confirm the Grant of Probate, and only when you have that can you go back to asset holders, and seek release of the funds, or if there is a property involved, you can deal with the sale of the property. Currently the HM Courts and Tribunal Service, which oversee all Probate Registries are indicating that approximately nine weeks will be required for the process to be completed.

We have to say in our experience, this can be substantially longer, and we have cases which is fair to admit are complicated, and requisitions and queries are raised by both the Probate Registry and HMRC – IHT which means there is a considerable delay. We have matters which the application has been submitted, we are over a year waiting for the process to be completed and the Probate Registry to issue the Grant of Representation.

There are a few tips that we believe assist us in obtaining an earlier Grant. In no particular order:

Arrange formal valuations of assets as early as possible, and have all the documentation you need to hand, including the will, information on the pre-deceased’s spouses estate, marriage date, death certificates, national insurance number, and any information on lifetime gifting.

Recently in an attempt to speed up applications, HMTCS in agreement with Probate Practitioners and or Probate Registries, have now set up an online application process which is to be used, and this is hope that it will speed the process up.

The estate is itself usually liable to inheritance tax, liabilities and administrative expenses. However, without access to the funds people are left waiting for their money.

Most commercial institutions are accustomed to this, keeping everybody informed is the key to a probate application and administration.

Please do not hesitate to contact to us if you have any queries on this matter.