Time taken for issue of grant of representation – paper application

I submitted an application to Newcastle on the 22nd of December. I have just received an email from them stating “You will usually get probate within 16 weeks of us receiving your application…“

I usually diarise these type of messages, but I’m wondering whether I should diarise it for 16 weeks from today or 16 weeks from say 3 January when presumably work had restarted at Newcastle.

Patrick Moroney

Hi Patrick,

Based on current experience with Newcastle I’d diarise from the date of the email. The 16 weeks seems to be triggered from scanning, not receipt, not sure how it can take so long to scan incoming post though.

Lyndzey Smissen
Paytons Solicitors LLP

Patrick, I am afraid that there is no longer any logic or certainty with the inept way that HMCTS is handling the Probate process.

When I came into my office this morning I was surprised to see a pile of white C4 envelopes on my desk that had arrived in today’s post. I looked at the back of the first envelope and saw that it was from HMCTS Probate in Harlow. When I opened the envelope I was very pleased to see that it contained a Grant in a somewhat complex intestate estate which I had been waiting for since November. I counted the envelopes on my desk and found that there were 28 in all, all from HMCTS in Harlow. I did not have 28 outstanding applications but hoped that some of the Grants in other estates had arrived too. As I opened all the envelopes, I was flabbergasted to discover that every single envelope contained the Grant in the same estate!

As the deceased had several small bank accounts, the proposed Administrator asked me to obtain nineteen sealed “copies”. In consequence, I was expecting to receive 20 Grants but now have 560……

After experiencing the disastrous new Probate process for some time, I came to the view that there is no human being supervising the printing and posting of Grants and this debacle confirms my view.

Although the deceased was UK-domiciled, the Administrator lives in County Galway in Ireland. His address is referred to on the Grant as “…. County Galway MISSING Republic Of Ireland” I have no idea how the “MISSING” crept in – surely, if anyone actually had looked at the Grant after it had been printed, this ridiculous error would have been noticed.

To add insult to injury, my first name is spelt incorrectly on the Grant.

The Registry that had handled the application is the Probate Registry of Wales in Cardiff.

Receiving a surplus of Grants is very annoying but to have to return the Grant for amendment to remove “MISSING” is really intolerable.

I despair……

Cliona O’Tuama

Solicitor

I quote my wonderful (Polish) Latin Teacher “O tempora, O mores, O Di Immortales”. Reserved for the very worst abject efforts at viva voce translation. Corporal punishment was still in vogue but decimation fortunately had been abolished. HMCTS Harlow delenda est.

Jack Harper

Cliona

You could ask them to hand amend all 560 copies as a punishment.

I had thought that straightforward online cases would now be sorted out but it is still taking months and months to produce a single sheet of paper. They don’t even have to do any sums…

There must be some superfluous stages, perhaps involving incense and runes to confirm the details directly with the deceased.

1 Like

Andrew

Somebody certainly needs to be punished for this negligence.

I received a further two packages from HMCTS Probate this morning, each containing a further 20 Grants in the same estate. I now have 600 Grants……

Like Jack, I too had a wonderful Latin teacher, in my case an Irish nun. She was forever quoting Cato’s “Carthago delenda est”. I agree with Jack that we should say HMCTS Harlow delenda estate instead.

Cliona O’Tuama

Now now folks don’t be too hard on the HMCTS Team. I expect a lot of this is because of lack of training and the loss of experienced staff who the bosses considered were earning too much. We must aim our complaints at the Government minister who is responsible for HMCTS. Unfortunately, whenever one makes a complaint and a junior minister responds, they make a great point of saying how the service has improved greatly but unfortunately it is not evident to us at the sharp end. Going back to my original question, it seems to me that there is no point in arranging for the marketing of a property until the grant of probate is in one’s hands as otherwise potential purchases will get fed up waiting and move on to another property.

Patrick Moroney.

I despair with the paper service although I have to say the online applications seem to be coming back in a slightly more timely manner.

My current record for a paper application is nearly 8 months - I have been told several times that it’s been moved to the priority queue (which is further 3 weeks) but still no sign. Ironically, a paper application submitted after the long serving one was received this week - still 4 months though!

Telephoning the “helpline” of course is an equally frustrating experience!

We’re finding paper applications taking around 6 months, which has increased from around 3 months 12 months ago - thank goodness for progress and improvements and the benefit of the increased fees. Whether paper or online, regular frustrations are missing additional sealed copies and requisitions in respect of documents submitted with the application. Not funny I know, but we had a ‘stop’ and requisition because the deceased and the executor had the same name; surely not uncommon when in the will, the father appoints ‘my son’ (his namesake) executor…
An additional minor issue is the two weeks from date of issue to the grant being posted - we have had clients asking why it took us so long to attend.

I think you may have received everyone’s’ grants! I have been informed of the issuing of grants on 3 different matters in the last 3 weeks but i have yet to receive any grants! I was told by HMCTS that they are taking 20 days just to print once issued.

Caroline,

I’ve been seeing the same, lots of issued Grants but then they don’t materialise. At least they don’t tell the clients an issue date and then leave us waiting like the OPG but it is yet another problem.

Kind regards,

Lyndzey

I learned that a grant had been issued from DWP, who Informed me that they had seen the gross and net figures for the estate and wanted to have details of the assets/liabilities as the deceased had been in receipt of assessed benefits. I think I had to make a couple of calls to HMCTS before eventually, about three weeks or so later I received the grant. Another example of incompetence!

Patrick Moroney

Patrick, I have yet another example of incompetence in the same week as I received the 600 Grants referred to previously.

I received a Grant of Probate today. My office is in a serviced offices building called Hamilton House. Instead of being addressed to Cliona O’Tuama Solicitor (Ref…. ) at Hamilton House …., as is usually on Grants, the Grant is addressed to Cliona O’Tuama Solicitors XXX Group Ltd, Hamilton House…. XXX Group Limited is another tenant of Hamilton House.

Obviously, the application form that I completed had no reference whatsoever to XXX Group Limited, so somebody at the Probate Registry has taken it upon themselves to search on the Royal Mail’s “address finder” by reference to the postcode of Hamilton House, which shows all the occupants, and then arbitrarily chosen XXX Group Limited as my firm.

Like the 600 Grants that I received, this Grant was also issued by the Probate Registry of Wales. Heaven spare me from having any of my other applications processed by this inept Registry.

Cliona O’Tuama

Cliona,

Before all the changes took place the probate registry of Wales was one of the best in the country for turn round of probate. Sadly as you have demonstrated from your experience that is no longer the case and as far as accuracy is concerned, they clearly need to go back to basics.

It’s strange that you are getting grants from Wales whereas we in Swansea are getting them from English HMCTS offices as all online applications, result in the Will having to be sent to Harlow and paper applications to Newcastle upon Tyne. We don’t seem to have a choice! But I suppose that is just as well in view of the poor service you’re getting?

Patrick Moroney

Patrick

As several of my deceased estates are of non-UK-resident individuals, I submit paper applications in all estates and have not yet submitted an online application. I actually send my applications to the Oxford DPR, who were so very helpful for many years, who then send them elsewhere. Most of the Grants that I receive are issued at Newcastle upon Tyne but I have received some Grants from Liverpool and now the incorrect ones from the Wales Registry.

The old procedure was so good…. If it ain’t broke…

Cliona O’Tuama

Sadly a lot of it seems to be down to lack of training of HMCTS staff.

I submitted a paper application for someone who died intestate in April last year and whose Estate qualified as Excepted, so no IHT forms are required, merely a declaration of the values in the PA1A.

Eight weeks after they received the papers (I always send them by Special Delivery so I can check when they are received), they e-mailed me to say they could not process the application because they needed an IHT421, so I replied the same day to say that although the value of the Estate is between £325K and £650K, I had ticked all the correct boxes in the PA1A to indicate that we were claiming unused allowances from a predeceased spouse and that according to the gov.uk website this meant the Estate qualified as Excepted meaning that no IHT forms are required (I even copied and pasted the relevant sections from the gov.uk website). I said that I expected the application to be expedited or I would involve my MP as this is not the first time I have experienced spurious queries.

An automated reply acknowledged receipt of my e-mail and said that the Grant would normally be issued within 16 weeks of the application so last Thursday, it being 16 weeks, I called them for an update, only to be told that they had received my e-mail but “the information has not been added to the case” so she would do so now and escalate it and I should hear from them within a week. Needless to say it is now over a week and I have heard nothing.

That staff at HMCTS are not aware of the IHT reporting requirements being changed over a year ago is inexcusable, especially as the new rules were meant to streamline applications!

My staff and I are normally fairly cheerful characters, but have been driven to the point where the stress of dealing with the Probate Registry makes a minimum wage 9 to 5 job appealing. As one commentator noted, ‘there is no logic’. We have had three cases where the registry lost the papers and we are probably now going to have to apply under intestacy rather than proving a copy. In one case, they denied having the papers. What seems to work is a telephone complaint followed by an email both to the registries and to HMRC. In one case, the caseworker took the initiative to look deeper and discovered it had been entered onto their system as ‘…ter’ when the surname ended in …tor’. Yet we have had three cases since Christmas where grants were returned within a week!

It would be interesting to know whether practitioners feel the IHT421 process is working efficiently.

Michael McCabe

Out of interest has anyone had a situation where the probate registry delays have prevented sales of shares within the 12 months required for loss on sale of shares relief for IHT?

I was coming up to the 12m limit on one matter and contacted the probate registry asking them to expedite the case in those circumstances and they did.

Nicola Waldman | Partner | For Hodge Jones & Allen

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