Now probate delay firm is losing wills: Fresh scandal at the Essex office we exposed for unforgivable service
- Exela Technologies was awarded a £4.5 million contract by the Government
- It is responsible for uploading digital copies of wills onto an online system
- Experts report long waits for wills to be scanned and high numbers of errors
- Now readers say they are being told the firm has lost their original documents
- Without probate they can’t wrap up loved ones’ estates or give out inheritances
Grieving families who have been waiting months for probate face yet more delays after it emerged their loved ones’ wills have been lost.
The blunder will cost one family thousands of pounds because they cannot sell their late mother’s home until probate is granted.
Probate delays: Exela Technologies, which was awarded a £4.5m contract by the Government, is revealed to have lost some of the wills they were responsible for scanning
The company, Exela Technologies, which was awarded a £4.5 million contract by the Government, is responsible for uploading digital copies of wills on to an online system.
But experts have complained of long waits for wills to be scanned and a high number of errors, causing yet more delays.
And when Money Mail visited the firm’s office in an industrial estate in Harlow, Essex, we saw hundreds of boxes stacked up high inside.
Now readers say they are being told the firm has lost the original documents they submitted.
And until probate is granted, they cannot wrap up their loved ones’ estates or give out inheritances.
Tony Paoletti, 57, and his sister Julie Taylor, 63, applied for probate in July last year after their mother Patricia died aged 81 in February. They received confirmation their documents had been received in September.
But despite chasing repeatedly, the siblings heard nothing until May, when Tony received an email that read: ‘I am very sorry that our Harlow scanning contactor has lost the original will document you submitted’.
Tony was told to fill out a ‘lost will questionnaire’ and re-submit his application with a copy of the document, but is still waiting to hear back.
How we first reported the scandal at the Essex office
The pair now face paying around £4,000 in bills because they still cannot sell their mother’s flat.
Tony, who lives with his wife Karen in Billericay, Essex, says: ‘I am absolutely furious. If I had made a mistake like that at work, I would be sacked from my job.’
Stephen Bennett was also asked to fill in a ‘lost will questionnaire’ after Exela mislaid a family member’s will. The father-of-two applied for probate in June and was told the documents had arrived in Harlow a week later.
But in July, HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) wrote to say the original will could not be found.
It eventually turned up in the Harlow office and probate was granted 175 days after Stephen first applied.
Stephen, 62, who lives in Kent, says: ‘The distress that this has caused to my whole family is completely unacceptable.
‘Exela is clearly not fit for purpose and should not have this contract.’
He was paid a £100 goodwill gesture from HMCTS.
When a will is lost, executors are allowed to provide a copy of the document if the registrar agrees and they sign a statement of truth explaining what happened.
If there are no copies of the will, HMCTS staff will attempt to ‘reconstruct’ it. This could involve asking the deceased’s solicitor for any notes made when the will was written.
Last week, the Ministry of Justice announced plans to hike probate fees for executors from £215 to £273 to tackle the department’s £85 million deficit.
Stephanie Boyce, president of the Law Society, says: ‘The Ministry of Justice’s persistence of raising fees in the probate service is worrying, particularly when there are continued and significant delays to the probate service.
‘Any increase in fees must be reflected in the service provided.’
An HMCTS spokesman says: ‘We apologise for the distress caused and are urgently investigating these delays.’
Exela Technologies did not respond to any requests for comment.