Welcome news on probate from HMCTS
Together with the Institute of Legacy Management (ILM), we're pleased to welcome new commitments from His Majesty’s Courts & Tribunal Service (HMCTS) to enhance the service it provides for the charity sector. This will include more in-depth reporting on estates at probate and the development of a new charitable estate indicator.
Remember A Charity and the ILM have been working closely with the Probate Registry to ensure that the impact on charities of any probate delays is front of mind and that charities are kept informed of changes and service issues. In response to our requests, the Probate Registry has committed to several actions to enhance the service and forecasting information available for charities named in Wills, including:
- Providing more regular updates and forecasts, including greater clarity on the level of stopped estates* held up in the system;
- Delivering a programme of webinars for charities to provide further information and an update on the Probate Registry’s approach; and
- Adding a form field on digital applications (80% of cases) identifying whether the estate includes a charitable gift, enabling better future tracking, forecasting and normalising the inclusion of charitable gifts in Wills.
2023 has been a challenging year for the sector and probate teams alike, with charities facing urgent need for funding and probate applications reaching record levels, increasing the volume of estates awaiting processing.
However, HMCTS reports that September and October have been particularly productive months, reducing the backlog with provisional data showing significantly higher output of grants issued than applications received. This follows the recruitment of 100 new staff members, training and upskilling of the probate team, and improvements to the digital application platform made earlier this year.
The Probate Registry has also confirmed it is working towards the target of reducing unprocessed applications in the system to a head of work of around 30,000 estates at any one time.
Matthew Lagden, CEO at the Institute of Legacy Management, says:
“We are delighted that, after extensive consultation and dialogue with ourselves and Remember A Charity, HMCTS has been prepared to adopt the ideas we put forward.
“There is no doubt that, once in place, these measures will help charities to forecast future legacy income more accurately, access regular updates and information and, above all, realise gifts in a more timely fashion as waiting times come down. We thank HMCTS for their understanding and their positive commitment towards supporting the charity sector.”
Lucinda Frostick, Director of Remember A Charity, adds:
“Legacy giving is a lifeline for thousands of charities and community-based organisations and, particularly during such tough times for the sector, any delays can have a hefty impact on charities and their ability to deliver services.
“We know that there is a way to go yet before much charitable income will be released from the probate system, but the recent progress and these new measures are great news for charities. In particular, the ability to identify the proportion of charitable estates in the system at any one time really could be transformative. Not only will it help charities budget for likely legacy income, but it effectively hardwires the charitable ask into the application process, helping to normalise legacy giving to executors, solicitors and others.”
Together, Remember A Charity and the ILM represent the charity sector on the Probate Service Users Working Group, alongside The Law Society and other stakeholders. They meet regularly with HMCTS to discuss updates within the Probate Registry, probate output levels, future forecasts and more, ensuring the impact on charities of any probate service changes or delays is taken into account by the government and HMCTS.
Gifts in Wills currently raise around £4 billion** for good causes annually, funding vital charitable services for charities and community-based organisations across the country.
*This term is used to describe an application that has been ‘stopped’ at probate, often due to missing or incomplete documentation or errors in the application. Stopped estates typically take twice as long as unstopped estates to move through probate.
**Legacy Foresight, 2023