Making our probate service simple, accessible and reliable (1)

[English] - [Cymraeg]

The public rely on our probate service at a really difficult and challenging time in their lives. They rely on us dealing with applications in a timely way. We are sorry that over recent months our performance has been too slow and has kept people waiting. I want to explain why the service has got slower, what we are doing about it, and how we will change the way we do probate over the longer term to make it better.

I am going to focus this blog on the current performance position. My next blog, to be published in a few days’ time, will cover some of the broader probate issues.

Improving the service

Over the last 18 months, we have been changing the way the probate service operates to ensure it better meets the needs of users. This is part of the wider courts and tribunals reform programme and is focused on:

  • providing a system that people can trust, one that will be there and will work properly when they need it;
  • making the service easier for people to use by enabling them to apply for probate online – 24/7 and from the comfort of their own home – if they choose to;
  • simplifying the process of applying for probate by removing unnecessary bureaucracy for personal applicants, legal professionals and the courts; and
  • upgrading and streamlining the systems we use behind the scenes to process applications more efficiently.

Our changes started with unrepresented applicants, as these people lack support to engage with us and have often struggled the most to use our service. We’ve come a long way for this group of users, and have undoubtedly made probate simpler and more convenient to use for many of them.

Over 30,000 people have already used the online application process with 92% saying that they were satisfied. But other user groups haven’t yet benefitted from the new service and we have had a huge surge in demand which means we’ve not been able to process the applications quickly enough. There is clearly more we can – and will – do to improve the service further.

Increased volumes, slower service

Unfortunately, since the end of March this year we have not been issuing grants of probate as quickly as we were at the start of the year.

When we first migrated work to one of our new back-office systems we hit teething problems and lost a number of days’ worth of working time. This affected our operations, but in the normal run of things would not have significantly affected our service times for an extended period.

But volumes soared in the Spring – over a 50% increase during March and April compared to usual monthly volumes. We were not resourced to deal with this volume of work – digital or otherwise – and our staff were learning to use new systems at the same time. By the end of May, we had 40,000 more applications in the system than normal for this time of year.

The effect of these issues was to create a significant backlog which we are now working hard to reduce.

How long are waiting times?

We have stabilised the system and colleagues have worked tirelessly to help us improve our operation and deal with the backlog. We have also brought in more staff (a 20% increase) to help us meet the challenges. These have enabled us to start reducing waiting times.

For the vast majority of the more than 1,000 grants we issue every day, the waiting times for applications are now between six to eight weeks. There will be some exceptions to this, with some cases taking longer. But this is the current position.

There have been some reports, however, suggesting delays are more like 10 to 12 weeks, and I should explain the discrepancy, not least because the broader reason for the difference cuts to the heart of why the changes to the system are so important.

A considerable number of applications for probate have to be stopped because we need further information or assurance before we can issue a grant of probate. These stops are usually because there is a document missing, a procedural defect (for example, names on the will not matching precisely with the application or the death certificate) or we need further confirmation that the documents being submitted are correct.

We don’t count the time from stopping until we get the responses back and start working again on the application. This is because we cannot progress the application in the intervening period and so we move to other work. But it is clear that when applications are stopped it adds to the time it takes us to process and the impact is felt more acutely when people are already waiting far too long.

Stopping the stops

Stops are frustrating for all of us. They are frustrating for the public because they have to do more work, or go back over an application they have already made, in order to get their grant of probate. They are frustrating for us because it means we are starting and stopping work that we could deal with if we had everything we need. This is why we are working hard to ensure the new process is much simpler and clearer.

Our new service is designed to help applicants to give us the right information first time so that our processes don’t get in the way of giving people the service they need. We’re using technology to help us with this – the online application form limits opportunities for applicants to submit their form unless it is complete and accurate. We are already seeing a reduction in stops for digital applications and I am keen we reduce them even further.

None of this is to say that the current level of performance is acceptable. It’s not. We need to get back to issuing grants much quicker and so we are using all of our experienced staff who are able to authorise grants as well as drafting in a number of lawyers in HMCTS who have the expertise needed. With extra support now in place, I fully expect the delays to reduce further over the coming weeks.

Helping us help you

If you are experiencing delays outside of the six to eight weeks and this isn’t due to stops then please do get in touch with us and we will investigate. I would ask for your continued patience if we are in the eight-week window for all other cases so our team is able to remain focused on clearing the work.

You can also help us reduce stops by:

  1. Making sure you provide the IHT form  when you submit your application
  2. Double-checking all the names on the application form are the same as on the will, making sure you have accounted for any executors not applying
  3. Signing the statement of truth
  4. Signing the forms
  5. Sending the right fee

Please be assured that we are working very hard to get back on track and to deliver a service which meets the needs of all those who use it and please get in touch if you have comments.

Thank you for your patience and co-operation and I will be back with my second blog in the next few days.

[English] - [Cymraeg]

Mae'r cyhoedd yn dibynnu ar ein gwasanaeth profiant ar adeg wirioneddol anodd a heriol yn eu bywydau. Maent yn dibynnu arnom i ymdrin â cheisiadau mewn modd amserol. Mae'n ddrwg gennym fod ein perfformiad wedi bod yn rhy araf dros y misoedd diwethaf ac wedi gwneud i bobl ddisgwyl. Rwyf eisiau esbonio pam fod y gwasanaeth wedi slofi, beth rydym yn ei wneud yn ei gylch, a sut y byddwn yn newid y ffordd y byddwn yn cyflwyno’r gwasanaeth profiant yn y tymor hir er mwyn ei wella.

Yn y blog hwn rwy'n mynd i ganolbwyntio ar sefyllfa’r perfformiad ar hyn o bryd. Bydd fy mlog nesaf, sydd i'w gyhoeddi ymhen ychydig ddyddiau, yn ymdrin â rhai o'r materion profiant ehangach.

Gwella'r gwasanaeth

Dros y 18 mis diwethaf, rydym wedi bod yn newid y ffordd y mae'r gwasanaeth profiant yn gweithredu er mwyn sicrhau ei fod yn diwallu anghenion defnyddwyr yn well. Mae hyn yn rhan o'r rhaglen ehangach i ddiwygio’r llysoedd a’r tribiwnlysoedd ac mae'n canolbwyntio ar:

• ddarparu system y gall pobl ymddiried ynddi, un a fydd ar gael ac a fydd yn gweithio'n iawn pan fydd arnynt ei hangen;
• gwneud y gwasanaeth yn haws i bobl ei ddefnyddio drwy eu galluogi i wneud cais am brofiant ar-lein – 24/7 ac o’u cartref eu hunain – os ydynt yn dymuno gwneud hynny;
• symleiddio'r broses o wneud cais am brofiant drwy gael gwared ar fiwrocratiaeth ddiangen ar gyfer ymgeiswyr personol, gweithwyr proffesiynol cyfreithiol a'r llysoedd; ac
• uwchraddio a symleiddio'r systemau a ddefnyddiwn i brosesu ceisiadau'n fwy effeithlon.

Dechreuodd ein newidiadau gydag ymgeiswyr heb gynrychiolaeth. Mae hyn oherwydd nad oes gan y bobl hyn gefnogaeth i ymgysylltu â ni ac maent yn aml yn cael anhawster i ddefnyddio ein gwasanaeth. Rydym wedi gwella’r ddarpariaeth ar gyfer y grŵp hwn o ddefnyddwyr, a heb os, mae wedi gwneud y gwasanaeth profiant yn symlach ac yn fwy cyfleus i'w ddefnyddio ar gyfer llawer ohonynt. Mae dros 30,000 o bobl eisoes wedi defnyddio'r broses ymgeisio ar-lein gyda 92% yn dweud eu bod yn fodlon. Ond nid yw grwpiau defnyddwyr eraill wedi elwa ar y gwasanaeth newydd eto ac rydym wedi cael cynnydd enfawr yn y galw sy'n golygu nad ydym wedi gallu prosesu'r ceisiadau'n ddigon cyflym. Mae'n amlwg bod mwy y gallwn ei wneud a mwy y byddwn yn ei wneud i wella'r gwasanaeth ymhellach.

Mwy o waith, system slofach

Yn anffodus, ers diwedd mis Mawrth eleni nid ydym wedi bod yn cyhoeddi grantiau profiant mor gyflym ag yr oeddem ar ddechrau'r flwyddyn.

Pan wnaethom ni symud gwaith i un o'n systemau swyddfa gefn newydd, fe wnaethom ni wynebu problemau a cholli gwerth nifer o ddyddiau o amser gweithio. Effeithiodd hyn ar ein gweithrediadau, ond, yng nghyd-destun cyffredinol, ni fyddai wedi effeithio'n sylweddol ar amser ein gwasanaeth am gyfnod estynedig.

Cynyddodd y llwyth gwaith yn eithriadol yn y gwanwyn – dros 50% yn ystod mis Mawrth a mis Ebrill o'i gymharu â'r llwyth gwaith misol arferol. Nid oedd gennym yr adnoddau i ddelio â’r llwyth hwn o waith – yn ddigidol neu fel arall – ac roedd ein staff yn dysgu sut i ddefnyddio systemau newydd ar yr un pryd. Erbyn diwedd mis Mai, roedd gennym 40,000 yn fwy o geisiadau yn y system o’i gymharu â’r adeg hon o’r flwyddyn fel arfer.

Effaith y materion hyn oedd creu ôl-groniad sylweddol yr ydym bellach yn gweithio'n galed i'w leihau.

Pa mor hir yw amseroedd aros?

Rydym wedi sefydlogi'r system ac mae ein cydweithwyr wedi gweithio’n ddiflino i'n helpu i wella ein gweithrediad a delio â'r ôl-groniad. Rydym hefyd wedi dod â mwy o staff (cynnydd o 20%) i'n helpu i wynebu'r heriau. Mae'r rhain wedi ein galluogi i ddechrau lleihau amseroedd aros.

Ar gyfer y mwyafrif helaeth o'r grantiau a gawn bob dydd, sy'n fwy na 1,000, mae'r amseroedd aros ar gyfer ceisiadau yn awr rhwng chwech ac wyth wythnos. Bydd rhai eithriadau i hyn, gyda rhai achosion yn cymryd mwy o amser, ond dyma yw'r sefyllfa ar hyn o bryd.

Cafwyd rhai adroddiadau, fodd bynnag, yn awgrymu bod yr oedi yn fwy fel 10 i 12 wythnos, a dylwn egluro'r anghysondeb, yn anad dim gan fod y rheswm ehangach dros y gwahaniaeth wrth wraidd pam fod gwneud newidiadau i'r system mor bwysig.

Mae'n rhaid gohirio nifer sylweddol o geisiadau am brofiant am fod arnom angen rhagor o wybodaeth neu sicrwydd cyn y gallwn gyhoeddi grant profiant. Mae'r oedi fel arfer yn digwydd oherwydd bod dogfen ar goll, camgymeriad ysgrifenedig (er enghraifft, nid yw’r enwau ar yr ewyllys yn cyfateb â'r enwau ar y cais neu'r dystysgrif marwolaeth) neu mae angen cadarnhad pellach bod y dogfennau sy'n cael eu cyflwyno yn gywir.
Nid ydym yn cyfri'r amser o ddechrau’r oedi hyd nes i ni gael yr ymatebion yn ôl a dechrau gweithio eto ar y cais. Y rheswm am hyn yw na allwn ddatblygu’r cais yn y cyfamser ac felly byddwn yn symud i waith arall. Ond mae'n amlwg pan fydd ceisiadau'n cael eu gohirio, mae'n ychwanegu at yr amser y mae'n ei gymryd i ni eu prosesu a theimlir yr effaith yn fwy difrifol pan fo pobl eisoes yn aros yn llawer rhy hir.

Stopio’r oedi

Mae oedi’n rhwystredig i bob un ohonom. Mae’n rhwystredig i'r cyhoedd oherwydd bod yn rhaid iddynt wneud mwy o waith, neu fynd yn ôl dros gais y maent eisoes wedi'i wneud, er mwyn cael eu grant profiant. Mae’n rhwystredig i ni oherwydd mae'n golygu ein bod yn dechrau ac yn stopio gwaith y gallem ymdrin ag ef pe bai gennym bopeth yr ydym ei angen. Dyna pam ein bod yn gweithio'n galed i sicrhau bod y broses newydd yn symlach ac yn fwy eglur.

Datblygwyd ein gwasanaeth newydd i helpu ymgeiswyr i roi'r wybodaeth gywir i ni y tro cyntaf fel nad yw ein prosesau yn amharu ar y gwasanaeth sydd ei angen ar bobl. Rydyn ni'n defnyddio technoleg i'n helpu gyda hyn – mae'r ffurflen gais ar-lein yn cyfyngu’r cyfleoedd i ymgeiswyr gyflwyno eu ffurflen oni bai ei bod yn gyflawn ac yn gywir. Rydym eisoes wedi gweld gostyngiad mewn oedi ar gyfer ceisiadau digidol ac rwy'n awyddus ein bod yn eu lleihau ymhellach fyth.

Nid yw hyn o reidrwydd yn golygu bod y lefel gyfredol o berfformiad yn dderbyniol. Dydy o ddim. Mae angen inni ddychwelyd at gyhoeddi grantiau'n llawer cyflymach ac felly rydym yn defnyddio'n holl staff profiadol sy'n gallu awdurdodi grantiau yn ogystal â drafftio nifer o gyfreithwyr yn GLlTEM sydd â'r arbenigedd angenrheidiol. Gyda chymorth ychwanegol yn ei le erbyn hyn, rwy'n llwyr ddisgwyl i'r oedi leihau ymhellach dros yr wythnosau nesaf.

Ein helpu ni i’ch helpu chi

Os ydych yn profi oedi y tu allan i'r terfyn amser o chwech i wyth wythnos ac os nad ydyw o ganlyniad i roi terfyn ar y gwaith, cysylltwch â ni a byddwn yn ymchwilio i’r mater. Os ydym yn yr wythfed wythnos ar gyfer pob achos arall, byddwch cystal â bod yn amyneddgar, fel y gall ein tîm barhau i ganolbwyntio ar glirio'r gwaith.

Gallwch hefyd ein helpu i leihau oedi drwy:

1. Wneud yn siŵr eich bod yn darparu'r ffurflen IHT pan fyddwch yn cyflwyno eich cais
2. Gwirio bod yr holl enwau sydd ar y ffurflen gais yr un fath ag ar yr ewyllys, gan sicrhau eich bod wedi cynnwys unrhyw ysgutorion nad ydynt yn gwneud cais
3. Llofnodi’r datganiad gwirionedd
4. Llofnodi’r ffurflenni
5. Anfon y ffi gywir

Rydym yn gweithio'n galed iawn i fynd yn ôl ar y trywydd iawn ac i ddarparu gwasanaeth sy'n diwallu anghenion pawb sy'n ei ddefnyddio ac mae croeso ichi gysylltu â ni os oes gennych unrhyw sylwadau.

Diolch am eich amynedd a’ch cydweithrediad. Byddaf yn cyhoeddi fy ail flog yn y dyddiau nesaf.

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  1. Comment by Gareth Parry posted on

    It is disingenuous (or disinformation, depending on which way you look at it) to say that the vast majority of probate applications currently take six to eight weeks. That is not my experience, nor that of my contemporaries. A more accurate figure would be twelve week average (in some cases, longer than that). Practitioners try their best to get things right but occasionally there will be an error. That has always been the case and always will be, but it did not cause these extraordinary delays in the past. It is important that you acknowledge the issue which has its cause in internal HMCTS matters so that it can be can be addressed rather than blaming external factors. Focussing on the wrong thing will lead this to becoming the new normal, which would be an appalling situation.

    • Replies to Gareth Parry>

      Comment by Jonathan Wood posted on

      Good afternoon Gareth

      Thanks for reading the blog and taking the time to comment. I understand how frustrating the delays you are experiencing are and, as I said in my blog, I am sorry.
      I look at our internal position every day and I know we have been working at about 8 weeks behind (counted from day of document receipt to day of grant issue) through June and July. There is improvement through August and I expect to see this continue. We have issued over 42,000 grants in June and July and 17,000 this month so far so we are issuing significant volumes now.

      Please be assured we know that we need to do better and are focused on returning service levels to what they were. There was no intent to blame anyone or anything, merely explain the context in which we are working.

  2. Comment by Graham Edwrads posted on

    How dare you seek to pass the blame onto Solicitors making mistakes in their applications for the delays you have created in processing applications for Grants of Probate.

    • Replies to Graham Edwrads>

      Comment by Jonathan Wood posted on

      Dear Graham

      Thank you for your feedback.
      My blog acknowledged the current slowness in probate, and apologised directly for it. It set out what HMCTS is doing to tackle the issue and suggested some ways in which users could help us, but please be assured that in asking for help we are not seeking to avoid responsibility for improving both our performance and the overall system.

  3. Comment by john posted on

    The delays are the fault of HMCTS,did you not anticipate an increase in applications,the timing and the implementation of the new IT were a disaster,
    This has been ongoing since March and the reaction from HMCTS was too slow and inadequate.
    Bereaved families suffering as a result of your incompetence,
    To err is human but if a solicitor made a mistake/omission under the old system it took days to sort not 9 weeks.
    Do not blame others for your mistakes, it erodes any remaining credibility that HMCTS has.

    • Replies to john>

      Comment by Jonathan Wood posted on

      Hello John

      Thank you for getting in touch.

      My blog acknowledged the current slowness in probate, and apologised directly for it. It set out what HMCTS is doing to tackle the issue and suggested some ways in which users could help us, but please be assured that in asking for help we are not seeking to avoid responsibility for improving both our performance and the overall system.

      We know we have more to do to improve performance and rebuild trust and that this will be most effectively done by improving the service and our performance, but I hope that publishing the detail we have this week is a small step towards that.

  4. Comment by Martin Bonner posted on

    I just phoned for an update on the probate application I made as it's now over 10 weeks the will was delivered to Harrow, and over 9 weeks since I received an email telling me to allow 20 working days.

    Was advised that there are no issues with my application, so no stops, and that it is just waiting to be signed off by a registrar (I was told the same when I called at 8 weeks). Agent advised the current delay is around 12 weeks and that she would raise the issue of this blog with her manager as the 6-8 week information is incorrect.

    So is the National Services Director lying or simply ill informed? Either way it is rather worrying!

    • Replies to Martin Bonner>

      Comment by Jonathan Wood posted on

      Thanks for your post Martin.
      I understand how frustrating the delays you are experiencing are and, as I said in my blog, I am sorry.
      We will email you directly to get specific details for your case so that we can look in to this for you.

  5. Comment by Paul Newstead posted on

    My own case has been in process since May 2019 and still no update or resolution. This is a simple matter with only one surviving relative but clearly the errors in managing the change of IT systems and premature closure of offices before the Newcastle Centre was able to deal with work efficiently have exacerbated the situation. Questions for Mr Wood: - HMCTS are a monopoly provider relied upon by all UK citizens. Knowing that the system changes had failed so catastrophically, why was no interim plan adopted to ensure service continuation at an acceptable (if degraded) level, and why were the staff left to work on a failed and untested IT implementation with no fall-back in place? There must be many people across the country like me, faced with mounting costs running into many hundreds of pounds, and also people waiting to move into badly-needed housing with no hope of progress or ability to plan. When will you take steps to improve communication, reopen telephone lines and engage temporary staff to tackle this failure of service?

    • Replies to Paul Newstead>

      Comment by Jonathan Wood posted on

      Thank you for getting in touch Paul. I am sorry to hear of the delays you have been experiencing. We will email you directly to get specific details for your case so that we can look in to this for you.

      • Replies to Jonathan Wood>

        Comment by Paul Newstead posted on

        I appreciate the personal response and also the real difficulties for both clients and staff encountered with such a large-scale transformation. Let's hope for all concerned that the peak workload and adoption of new procedures will be settled soon.

  6. Comment by Andrew posted on

    What has happened to the service for providing copies of existing probates? It is supposed to take ten working days but I am still waiting for one. Have you moved staff off that function to cope with the crisis in the issue of grants?

    If it is now taking longer than ten working days will you have the website corrected today?

    Why is no phone number provided to chase on? If the service was up to scratch you would not get many chases!

    • Replies to Andrew>

      Comment by Jonathan Wood posted on

      Hello Andrew and thank you for contacting us.
      Unfortunately, we are experiencing very high demand for copies of wills, which means it is taking us significantly longer than usual to provide copies requested on GOV.UK. We are sorry for the inconvenience and the frustration that this delay is causing.
      Extra resources are being brought in to work through current applications and to process new requests for copies of wills more quickly. If you would like us to look at your order, you can contact us by email: - sorry again for the inconvenience.