If the UK probate system were our employee, we would have dismissed it three months ago. If it were a company, its customers would have closed it down. However, it is still stumbling on despite the mess it finds itself in.
Government departments seem to soldier on forever because they have monopoly power. It’s that simple. Quite how the Ministry of Justice got us into this mess is however a question you should put to your member of parliament.
That said, the members of that esteemed house seem too involved with Brexit to worry about the people phoning us every day about wills stuck in government glue. The best we can do is to provide this update and wish you the very best of British luck.
How We Got to Where We Are Now
In the halcyon days before March 2019, applicants got their grants of probate within ten working days if they filled in the forms right. They may have grumbled a little about bureaucratic delays, but they were generally a happy lot.
Then one blue day the government installed software to automate the process. This failed dismally after a few days. By early May processing time had jumped from a worst case ten days to as bad as eight weeks. However there is more to this than mere numbers.
The Law Society Gazette Reveals the Depth of the Mess
Society newshound Jemma Slingo reports a leading Hull solicitor has only managed to shorten their backlog by eight days since then. They complain this casts them in a bad light because they cannot account to beneficiaries promptly.
“Solicitors are also having to pay bills and emergency expenses from their own funds, as court delays are preventing them promptly gathering-in the liquid assets of estates,” they complain.
We are left wondering how Her Majesty’s Tax and Excise Department would respond if we were equally tardy in responding to their queries. We earnestly hope they treat distraught beneficiaries gently, while they wait the bidding of their sister Ministry of Justice.
How a Simple Oversight Could Double the Disaster
Solicitors for the Elderly director Ruth Pyatt told newshound Jemma Slingo a simple typo on a probate application could set it back fifteen weeks. “We are concerned for those in need of an urgent grant, especially those who are recently bereaved and have no other option but to apply for probate,” she told the reporter.
We have heard tell from a usually reliable source Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Paul Maynard apparently regards these delays as ‘the new normal’.
“Unfortunately when the new system for probate online went live on 25 March, a technical issue disrupted the service for four days, causing delays.” He adds: “Our software developers have now rectified the issue and the system is working as it should.”
The government may be thinking their new online service is making probate simpler and more convenient for bereaved people, according to a Ministry of Justice spokesperson. We have to ask this simple question for whom, except the government perhaps dear Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice?