Probate delays

Hillier Hopkins LLP

Chartered Accountants & Tax Advisers

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Delays in probate cases are growing, creating additional financial and emotional distress for grieving families.

A freedom of information request made to the Ministry of Justice in April 2024 by the wealth management firm Quilter found a 94% increase in probate cases taking over nine months, a 65% increase in cases taking over 12 months and an astonishing 43% increase in cases taking over 18 months.

These delays are in stark contrast to the Government saying that individuals should usually get grant of probate within 16 weeks and often within just four weeks before the Covid pandemic.

An individual’s estate, bank accounts and assets are effectively frozen on death and often cannot be distributed until grant of probate is granted. These delays add additional stress to an already emotional period and can cause financial complications, particularly where property, the most valuable asset most individuals own, is involved.

Property cannot be sold until grant of probate, meaning executors will need to continue to pay utility bills and insurance often out of their own funds. Inheritance tax, irrespective of probate delays, will still need to be paid within six months of death with relatives liable for interest if it is not.

Delays are attributed to changes introduced in 2019 when the probate process moved online and regional probate offices merged into one central office. It is no longer possible to call this new centralised probate office until a 16-week window has passed and emails will often go unanswered. Even the most minor question can result in weeks of delay.

The Government also attributes delay to missing documents, tax information and missing or unprepared executors.

Avoiding probate delays

The simplest and most effective way to avoid or reduce the risk of probate delays is a well-ordered and managed estate, and this starts with a professionally drafted will. Ensure all documents that are needed can be easily located by your executors, and that your executors are willing and prepared to continue to act in that capacity.

Consider also who you choose to appoint as executors of your estate. For sizable or complex estates appointing a professional executor, such as your accountant, can speed up the probate process.

How Hillier Hopkins can help

Hillier Hopkins can be named in your will as sole or joint executors of your estate. The experience of estate administration and independence we bring can help ease any tensions that might exist between family members at a time when emotions naturally run high. That independence offers reassurance that your wishes will be respected and enacted as planned.

Even if we are not appointed as the executors of an estate, within our group we have licensed Probate Practitioners and tax specialists. This means that we can work together with executors to deal with IHT returns, income tax returns, estate accounts and applications for grant of probate. Executors are reassured and can receive the advice they often need to speed up the probate process.

Details of the services we provide are at

In many instances, we will have worked alongside a client often for many years managing their personal affairs. We bring a detailed understanding of your financial affairs and can quickly and efficiently guide family members and co-executors through probate. If you have trusted us with your financial affairs in your lifetime, why choose anyone else to deal with matters on your death.

If you have any questions about the topic above please feel free to get in contact with our expert below.

Do you need extra information?

Meeten Nathwani - Principal at Hillier Hopkins

Meeten joined Hillier Hopkins in 2001 and is qualified as a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, the Chartered Institute of Taxation and the Association of Tax Technicians.

Contact Meeten at or on +44(0)207 004 7126