Probate Delays and CRUK’s role in the Probate Inquiry

Photo of the Palace of Westminster taken from the river side

The Institute of Legacy Management (“ILM”) was represented by one of their Board Director’s Dave Hawes, who is also Director of Finance and Infrastructure at Devon Air Ambulance Trust; and Remember a Charity was represented by Alex McDowell, Vice Chair of Remember a Charity and Director at the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. 

The House of Commons Justice Select Committee took evidence from the panellists who highlighted how delays at probate affect both beneficiaries and charities, particularly those that are reliant on funding from gifts in wills.

ILM CEO Matthew Lagden, who attended the session as a spectator, said afterwards: “Having the opportunity to put across our points, and the views of our members, was extremely satisfying and a great example of the sector working together, holding a common line and doggedly pursuing our interests. 

“The committee secretary spoke to us afterwards in very favourable terms, saying the MPs were very impressed, and that we had represented ourselves well and engaged very positively with the process”. 

“Indeed, since then, HMCTS has already been in touch to discuss actioning some of the requests we made and to thank us for the measured tone we took.” 

Speaking about taking part in the debate, Dave Hawes, said: “This was a welcome opportunity to explain why and how probate delays have impacted charities of all sizes right across the sector, which I’ve seen both as a director of Devon Air Ambulance and as a Board member of ILM. 

“The probate service is crucial to ensure that people’s last wishes are followed and it’s important that HMCTS is able to support this in a timely manner both now and into the future.” 

Cancer Research UK's life-saving work would not be possible without the generosity of our supporters, such as your clients who use the Free Will Service and who very kindly remember Cancer Research UK in their Wills. In common with many Charities, gifts from wills are our largest source of income, making up almost 50% of our income from mass fundraising in recent years.  Last year 2022-2023 we received £261 million from gifts in wills.  

Delays at the Probate Registry have hindered charitable activity across the UK and continue to do so.  The length of time it takes for estate administration to be finalised has Increased, delaying charities from being able to use Legacy gifts for their vital charitable work.   

We understand how frustrating these delays are to Legal professionals, such as yourselves, and we are extremely grateful for all of your support and hard work in administering Estates over the last few years in spite of such difficulties.   

We are pleased that there have been reported improvements in the Probate Service.  The ILM has estimated that the backlog of probate applications has reduced by "at least 10,000" in the past six months. We hope that this hearing session together with future sessions, where representatives from the Legal Sector will be able to give evidence, will lead to continued long term improvements to the Probate Service to benefit you, your work and your clients.