Tuesday, 24 May 2022
Department of Justice and Equality
71. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if the Courts Service plans to review and streamline the probate processing service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26026/22]
As the Deputy may 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. Probate functions are also carried out by County Registrars at District Probate Registries in 14 provincial court offices, who are also independent in carrying out their functions.
Having made enquiries, I am informed by the Courts Service that probate applications by solicitors continued to be processed throughout the pandemic restrictions, in both the Dublin Probate Office and in the District Probate Registries.
The reintroduction of restrictions on travel in early 2021 necessitated the temporary closure of the personal applications process in the Dublin Probate Office. Interviews for personal applications resumed in May last year with additional resources allocated to facilitate these interviews. I am further advised that any arrears that had built up have also now been cleared and the wait times for personal applications stand at 10 to 12 weeks from the initial request for appointment. This is in line with the average wait times in previous years.
For new solicitor applications the waiting time varies between 10 to 12 weeks. This waiting time only applies to cases where the papers are error free. The Courts Service informs me that up to sixty percent of applications are returned to solicitors due to errors. The significant error rate in these cases not only slows up the processing of these cases but also adds significantly to the time taken to process all other applications.
I am informed that the development of the e-probate project, as part of the ambitious Courts Modernisation Programme, will have the benefit of standardising the processing of probate applications. The introduction of this improved system will hopefully lead to a faster and more efficient process time. By reducing the number of invalid applications, the development of the new system will allow staff resources to be better utilised in processing other applications for the benefit of court users.