Covid-19 and lock down has sadly meant the loss of tens of thousands of lives. Following a death their estate needs to be dealt with.

Lock down has resulted in long delays in obtaining the information, so the number of applications has, surprisingly, fallen. However, we have also seen the Courts and HMRC adapt new methods of working which are more effective and efficient. This Solicitor hopes these continue long after lock down is forgotten.

Dealing with an estate and obtaining a Grant of Probate, can be a complicated process. For advice on what to do when a loved on dies, please contact our Probate team.

Tens of thousands of bereaved families who have lost loved ones to coronavirus are dealing with the financial procedures that follow a death – called probate – but are encountering a system hit by delays and bureaucracy.

It usually takes about three to four months to sort out probate, which is essentially identifying the dead person’s assets, paying off any debts and sharing out the remaining estate according to the will.

Solicitors are warning, however, that even simple estates are taking months longer than normal to sort out. At the height of lockdown some solicitors were unable to access their offices to get physical wills, while obtaining details of bank accounts and investments has been fraught with delays.

Homes and other properties that belonged to the deceased have to be valued. A professional surveyor, not just an estate agent’s estimate, is usually required if there’s a chance the estate may fall into the inheritance tax (IHT) bracket. During lockdown, physical valuations were almost completely suspended.

The result is that the number of applications for grants of probate to HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS), rather than rising as might be expected because of coronavirus deaths, has plummeted by 50% since the lockdown began, according to reports in the UK Law Gazette.

Chris Burrows, a partner at the Manchester law firm Glaisyers, says: 'There are delays across almost all aspects of probate.”

When coronavirus struck, the government moved to address the problems with registering a death, such as letting a GP certify a death without physically attending.

Tax and legal authorities have streamlined matters. According to the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (Step), HMCTS is accepting electronic signatures on the IHT forms and has replaced affidavits with statements of truth that can be signed electronically.