Royal London Criticises Probate Delays

17 Aug 2017 | 07.41 am

Royal London Criticises Probate Delays

Average wait time for will probate is 70 weeks

17 Aug 2017 | 07.41 am

Families of deceased persons are suffering significant financial hardship as result of delays in the processing of probate requests by the Courts Service, where the average time taken to complete the process is now 16 months

A report by Royal London assurance company notes that life insurance policies cannot pay out until probate is complete. The company says probate delays are having a detrimental knock-on effect on the time frame for processing life assurance policy claims, and that this can result in significant financial hardship for the family and estate of the deceased policyholder, as they wait for the proceeds of the life assurance policy.

In England, obtaining a grant of probate takes an average of three to four weeks. Royal London’s analysis of claims submitted to the company in Ireland in 2016 shows that:

  • The shortest period to receive probate was 192 days (27 weeks)
  • The longest period to receive probate was 1,142 days (163 weeks)
  • The average time to get probate was 489 days (70 weeks)

In Scotland, while an executor cannot distribute the funds for six months, funds can be released to the executor before that date, thereby assisting in a relatively fluid process for claimants.

Waiting times at the Dublin Probate Office are 20 weeks for applications lodged by a solicitor, and 28 weeks for personal applications.  

The report makes five recommendations, explained below by head of proposition Joe Charles:

  1. Review fee structure for Personal Applicants
    “A personal applicant is charged €270 on the first €125,000 of the estate and €24 per €31,250 thereafter; this is double the solicitor based application fee. A personal applicant seeking a grant of probate on an estate valued at €750,000 is charged €750, while a solicitor seeking the same grant of probate would pay half the price at €375 in fees. We recommend the option that solicitor applications and personal applications are charged the same fee.”
  2. Alter the process for small claims
    “We propose that the Reform and Development Directorate of Ireland looks into a simplified process for estates valued at smaller amounts.”
  3. Simplification of Inheritance Tax forms
    “We suggest that the Revenue Commissioners consider simplifying tax forms where no IHT is payable.”
  4. Address the issue of the exclusivity of probate service
    “We advocate opening up services to companies that are not registered solicitors. We also recommend alternative methods of assisting PAs, e.g. additional guidance in the form of an appointment, enhanced literature or a hotline.”
  5. Lessen the additional requirements for Personal Applicants
    “Review the PAs probate process to ensure that all additional steps required from PAs are deemed necessary, with a view to cutting down any additional requirements and bringing it in line with the process for solicitors.”

The Courts Service says thatwaiting times vary and depend on a number of factors, including the number of staff at each location and the volume of business transacted at each registry, and have blamed the delays on a lack of staff and a 30-year-old IT system.

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