282. Deputy Noel Rock asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the long delays within the Probate Office; if assistance can be provided to speed up the process of probate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21879/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Probate Office is an office of the High Court. As the Deputy will be aware, 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 with the Courts Service. I have been advised that current waiting times for grants of probate from the Dublin Probate Office are as follows:
- Applications by solicitors - 4 weeks (representing 90% of applications)
- Applications by personal applicants - 12 to 14 weeks.
The Courts Service further advise that these times represent an improvement in waiting times since 2017 as a result of measures taken with the provision of additional resources and streamlining work processes.
I have also been informed that applications for probate are assessed on the basis of the date on when they are lodged, an approach which provides fairness and equity to all applicants. However, priority can be given to applications where there is a particular urgency or extenuating circumstances. In such cases, it is open to the applicant 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 applicants. These require detailed checking by the Probate Office to ensure 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 informed me that a review of Probate Services was carried out in 2018 and implementation of its recommendations is now under way. One such recommendation is a proposal to introduce on-line services within the Dublin Probate Office. Work on the e-Probate project has commenced and initial discussions have taken place with the Office of the Revenue Commissioners on how the Revenue Commissioners aspect (linked to the collection of Capital Acquisitions Tax) of the probate process can be incorporated into this wider e-Probate project.