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Probate a Will During Coronavirus Lockdown

Probate a Will During Coronavirus Lockdown

The Law Society recently announced that probate applications made in the UK during the Coronavirus lockdown have halved. It is still possible to apply for probate and get the grant of probate with the difficulties being down to the law firm’s ability to do so on behalf of their clients.

Some of the troubles arise from solicitors not having access to their offices to collect Wills, as well as the furlough of their staff putting pressure on the ability to get work done. In a normal week HMCTS (HM Courts and Tribunals Service) would see around 5,000 to 6,000 probate applications. These numbers appear to have dropped both from solicitors applying on behalf of clients and personal applications where legal representation is not being sought. 

HMCTS believes there will be a subsequent surge in applications due to COVID-19 deaths as in addition to already delayed applications. As such extra members of staff have been trained to deal with probate applications. Hope is that the new forms, recently launched, will help to speed up the process. 

If you need to apply for probate you need to be aware of other practicalities that could cause delay in your grant of probate application.

  • Registering a Death 

It is still possible to register a death with your local registry office but expect delays. 

  • Signing Documents

For now e-signatures have been accepted by the probate registry, instead of normal wet signatures. However,

  • Original Documents

Original documents still need to be sent out which means visiting the post office. You should only do so if it is safe for you and you are not experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 and are not a vulnerable person.

  • Estate Valuation

Organisations you normally need to contact to value the deceased’s estate may be closed or working with reduced staff numbers to conform to social distancing guidelines. This could mean delays if workloads are significant.

  • Probate Registry

Delays with the HMRC and probate registry are to be expected also due to safety measures in place; staff working from home and social distancing measures. 

  • Property

If the estate includes property that needs to be transferred or sold additional delays could be noted. The government has given the green light for the property market to effectively open again however, there will be inevitable delays. Estate agents will seek to prioritise buyers and sellers stuck in limbo that were unable to exchange and complete during lockdown. Many law firms still have staff working from home or furloughed so their time frames are lengthened.

If sadly, you need to apply for probate and need help and assistance please contact us and we will help you through this difficult time.