I propose to take Questions Nos. 413, 440 and 441 together.
As the Deputy will be aware, the Probate Office is an office of the High Court and 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. However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has provided the following update.
The Courts Service works closely with County Registrars to support their timely processing of applications. It is also important to recognise the importance of probate being completed in a manner which provides legal certainty for the future. I am also informed that there would seem to be evidence of difficulties arising where houses are being put on the market without a Grant of Probate having been issued, or in some cases even applied for. This presents additional obstacles to the completion of the transfer of any properties concerned.
The scheduling of personal application interviews must be conducted in line with public health guidelines. The Courts Service advises that personal applications had to be curtailed in both the Dublin Probate office and District Probate Registries to ensure the safety of both the applicant and staff. However, interviews for personal applications resumed in May.
Applications by solicitors continued to be processed throughout the period of the pandemic restrictions in both the Dublin Probate Office and the District Probate Registries. The waiting time for solicitor applications at present in the Probate Office, Dublin, is eight to ten weeks assuming that the papers received are correct. Applications where queries had to be raised on foot of the papers first lodged are taking eight weeks from the date they are re-submitted. There are variations in waiting times across all of the other District Probate Registries.
The staff of the Probate Office are committed to clearing any backlogs while the Courts Service is committed to continuing to resource this area of work to minimise waiting times as far as possible. This is one of a range of measures being taken by the Courts Service as part of its ongoing recovery from the pandemic. The e-probate initiative remains a key objective of the Courts Service Modernisation Programme and reflects the Government’s support for the digitisation of the wider justice system.