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How To Avoid Court Delays

Posted: Thursday, 18 May 2023 @ 14:44

There was an interesting piece in last week's Sunday Times(subscription required) which referenced grieving families trapped in probate limbo.

Here Julie Forbes is relaying her experience saying she has been on hold for more than an hour and she has already been waiting seven months for a grant of probate on her late uncle’s estate.

The process has not been straightforward — her uncle died abroad and did not leave a will. The last time Forbes called she was told to send an inheritance tax form for the third time because the paperwork couldn’t be found. “You get told something different each time you call,” said Forbes, 49, from Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire. “I’ve stopped emailing — it takes them two weeks just to reply to say they’ll respond to your email, and sometimes they haven’t even replied to my questions. It has been stressful — especially when you’re grieving for a loved one. You don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere.”

As the Times correctly observe  "Families are facing long probate delays, leaving some unable to access funds, having to pay heavy tax penalties or losing out financially as house sales are held up. The probate grants issued in February to people applying on paper took an average of 22.6 weeks — nearly five and a half months. Online applications took 5.7 weeks, according to HM Courts & Tribunals Service. The service, managed by the Ministry of Justice, has been battling for years to clear a backlog of cases." 

The above mirrors my experience.

It is not just probate cases where you experience problems.

Woe betide your lawyer(and more significantly you) if you have a County Court litigation in a slow Court. Unfortunately I had a High Court case which was transferred(probably correctly) into the County Court. 16 months down the track the County Court case is barely moving and we have no hearing date in sight. The case is logged somewhere in the system and hopefully(and we are relying on hope) we will hear from the Court soon.    

However on the positive side if you are in the High Court where you have prompt resolution and effective Court staff and e-filing it is a different ball game and the service is first class. Thus the  only way to avoid Court delays is to successfully stay in the High Court.