109. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the average waiting times for probate cases to be processed and concluded; if his attention has been drawn to the distress caused due to the lengthy delays for families involved in such cases; the efforts underway to address these delays; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8834/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Probate Office is an office of the High Court and management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions under the Courts Service Act 1998.
However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that waiting times in the Probate Office for a Grant of Probate are currently 16 weeks for applications made by solicitors on behalf of clients and approximately 40 weeks for personal applications.
As the Deputy is aware, all applications are assessed on the basis of the date on which they are lodged, an approach which provides fairness and equity to all applicants. Priority is given to probate applications where there is a particular urgency or in extenuating circumstances. In such cases, it is open to applicants to bring the matter to the attention of the Probate Office.
As the Deputy will appreciate all applications for Grants in deceased persons' estates are made on foot of a number of mandatory legal documents which must be furnished by the applicants. These require detailed checking by the Probate Office to ensure that the estate of the deceased person is administered correctly and in accordance with the law. Where a person opts to apply for a Grant personally, without the assistance of a solicitor, the process requires significant extra support from the Probate Office.
The Courts Service has advised that it is aware of the lengthy waiting times for probate applications, particularly personal applications, to the Probate Office and is working to improve the situation. Additional resources have been provided to the Probate Office to address the current delays. The Courts Service has also advised that it is currently finalising a full review of the probate system and it is anticipated that a report with recommendations for the modernisation of the process will now be presented by early this year.