Grants of Probate: fees and delays

Janet Strong, Associate Solicitor in our Wills and Estate team

When someone dies, it is sometimes necessary to apply for a Grant of Representation to deal with their estate. There are different types of Grant: executors named in a Will can apply for a “Grant of Probate”; if there is a Will but none of the executors can apply, others (usually the main beneficiaries) can apply for a “Grant of Letters of Administration With Will Annexed”; and if there is no Will, an application can be made for a “Grant of Letters of Administration”.

There have been two significant practical concerns this year relating to these applications. Firstly, a substantial increase in most fees was due to come into force in Spring 2019; and secondly, since Spring, there have been substantial delays in the processing of applications. The two problems are not entirely unrelated: there was a substantial increase in the volume of applications just before the original deadline for the fee change. Other contributing factors to the delay appear to have been a change in the format of the Grants coupled with a new computer system.

Under the government’s proposals, probate fees would have risen from the current fixed fee of £215 – or £155 with a solicitor – to a sliding scale of up to £6,000 depending on the size of the estate. However, it has been confirmed that the Government Minister has decided allow the probate fees increase to lapse.

As to the delays, it has recently been taking months rather than weeks to receive a Grant. The Law Society recently met with HM Courts and Tribunals Service and were told that a 20% increase in resources has been brought in to deal with the increase of applications and putting paper applications onto the new system, which they were told HMCTS is now up to date with. The challenge now sits at the quality assurance and final issue of grant stage.

HMCTS say they have processed 98,000 grants since April this year and have a backlog of applications from March. These need to be dealt with by people who have the appropriate skill/experience. They say they have brought in an additional legal advisers and believe this should help with getting through the backlogs.

It is therefore to be hoped that an end may at last be in sight to the present delays.

If you would like any help or advice regarding Grants of Representation, our Wills and Estates team would be happy to help.