Thursday, 3 June 2021
Department of Justice and Equality
126. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if her attention has been drawn to the significant delays in processing applications in the Probate Office; the actions she is taking to address the matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29706/21]
As the Deputy will be aware, the Probate Office is an office of the High Court. Under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in its functions. However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has provided me with the following update on the Probate Office.
County Registrars are responsible for the management of probate in District Probate Registries outside of Dublin and are independent in carrying out their functions. The Courts Service works closely with County Registrars to support their timely processing of applications.
While there have been variations in the level of service that could be provided as a result of Covid-19 restrictions, I am assured that District Probate Registries continued to work at all times during the pandemic. As the Deputy will appreciate, the scheduling of personal application interviews must be conducted in line with public health guidelines. As a result, the Courts Service advises that personal applications did have to be curtailed during Level 5 restrictions to ensure the safety of both the applicant and staff.
The Courts Service has confirmed that interviews for personal applications resumed in May and additional staff resources have been allocated in some locations to facilitate these interviews.
The Dublin Probate Office accounts for over fifty per cent of all probate applications lodged in this jurisdiction, and the waiting time for solicitor applications is at its lowest point for many years. For applications that are correct, the waiting period is six weeks. In Cork, waiting times are 10-12 weeks for solicitors, and 14 weeks for personal applications compared to 10 weeks and 12 weeks respectively in November 2019.
District Registries normally are small offices and I understand from the Courts Service that staff turnover can lead to temporary spikes in waiting times while vacancies are filled. However, the staff of the Probate Office are committed to clearing any backlogs and I am informed that personal application backlogs have reduced and waiting times have stabilised. I know that the Court Service is committed to continuing to resource this work to minimise waiting times as far as possible.
The Courts Service also advises that the manual Revenue affidavit was removed from the probate process and replaced with an online system, which went live last September.