Legacy income boost expected as probate service hires 100 staff to tackle backlog

21 Nov 2022 News

The HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has revealed that it is recruiting hundreds of staff to help clear the backlog at the probate service. 

HMCTS announced last week that it is recruiting people “on an extensive basis” between now and March 2023 as well as upskilling and training current staff. 

A spokesperson for HMCTS confirmed that the service will bring in more than “100 staff to work on probate”. 

Civil Society News understands that the backlog could be brought down to pre-Covid-19 level by March next year, which would unlock millions of pounds for charities. 

Hundreds of staff to tackle probate backlog

Speaking on a webinar last week, HMCTS representatives said that there has been an increase in the number of probate applications in recent years. 

They said the service has begun recruiting staff, which includes temporary staff and fixed-term contract staff, who will be trained on probate before being moved to other services within HMCTS.

Staff retention and training is “key” to reduce the caseloads, improve timeliness and drive up disposal levels, they added. 

HMCTS said that it still stops 37% of probate applications for “further information”. It is currently doing a lot of “refresher skills and training” to ensure it can identify the reasons behind stopped cases. It is also improving quality checks “around asking for more information” when it needs to do so. 

As an example, HMCTS said it has reduced the number of stopped applications by just under 3,000 in the last four weeks. 

It added that it is also looking into reducing the age and volume of outstanding paper applications – those that are more complex and cannot be made online – in its probate registries by upskilling and training staff. 

HMCTS said it aims to reduce the number of paper applications between now and early next year so that it can have parity between these and online applications.   

Remember A Charity: Probate is a ‘key part’ of legacy income

Lucinda Frostick, director of Remember A Charity, commented: “Probate is such a key part of the legacy income pipeline and we welcome not only the commitment HMCTS has made to keep the sector informed, but the many steps the team is taking to tackle the backlog, strengthening the service and improving processing times. This includes building capacity, upskilling the team, increasing the support for service users and introducing quality checks to reduce the number of stopped estates. 
“With so many applications going through the system, the challenges are not going to be resolved overnight, but by keeping the sector informed, we’re in a much better place to anticipate any impact on legacy income and adjust project plans or fundraising strategies accordingly.
“Legacies are predicted to bring in around £40bn over the next 10 years and with death rates on the rise, the steps taken to strengthen probate services now really will be crucial for the years ahead.”

Matthew Lagden, chief executive officer of the Institute of Legacy Management, confirmed that the “continued high death rates, which no one working in this area anticipated, have put the probate service under pressure”.

Jon Franklin, economist at Legacy Foresight, added: “It would be good news for the sector if HMCTS are able to make a significant in-road to the current probate backlog, providing a welcome uplift in legacy income for the named charities at a time when we’re facing significant economic headwinds.”

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