Probate delay company now loses wills: New Essex office scandal we exposed for unforgivable service
- Exela Technologies has been awarded a £4.5 million contract by the government
- It is responsible for uploading digital copies of wills to an online system
- Experts report long waiting times for will scans and high number of errors
- Now readers say they are being told that the company has lost their original documents
- Without a legacy, they can’t pack up loved ones’ estates or hand out legacies
Grieving families who have waited months for their legacy are further delayed after it was revealed that their loved ones’ wills had been lost.
The blunder will cost a family thousands of pounds as they cannot sell their late mother’s house until their estate is procured.
Last month, Money Mail revealed how a private company in Essex is at the root of a significant backlog of succession applications.
Probate delays: Exela Technologies, which was awarded a £4.5m contract by the government, appears to have lost some of the wills they were responsible for scanning
The company, Exela Technologies, which has been awarded a £4.5 million contract by the government, is responsible for uploading digital copies of wills to an online system.
But experts have complained about the long wait for wills to be scanned and a large number of errors, which caused even more delays.
And when Money Mail visited the company’s industrial estate office in Harlow, Essex, we saw hundreds of boxes piled high inside.
Now readers say they are being told that the company has lost the original documents they submitted.
And until the estate is granted, they cannot settle the estates of their loved ones or distribute inheritances.
Tony Paoletti, 57, and his sister Julie Taylor, 63, filed for succession in July last year after their mother Patricia passed away in February at the age of 81. They received confirmation that their documents had been received in September.
But despite repeated chasing, the siblings heard nothing from May, when Tony received an email that read, “I’m very sorry that our Harlow scanning contactor lost the original document you submitted.”
Tony was told to complete a ‘lost will questionnaire’ and resubmit his application with a copy of the document, but he is still waiting for a response.
How we first reported the scandal to the Essexex office
The couple now have to pay around £4,000 in bills as they still can’t sell their mother’s flat.
Tony, who lives in Billericay, Essex with his wife Karen, says: ‘I am absolutely furious. If I had made such a mistake at work, I would have been fired from my job.’
Stephen Bennett was also asked to complete a ‘lost will questionnaire’ after Exela lost a family member’s will. The father of two filed for an inheritance in June and was told the documents had arrived in Harlow a week later.
But in July, HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) wrote that the original will could not be found.
It eventually appeared in Harlow’s office, and the probate was awarded 175 days after Stephen first applied.
Stephen, 62, who lives in Kent, says: ‘The suffering this has caused to my entire family is completely unacceptable.
“Exela is clearly not fit for purpose and should not have this contract.”
He received 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 sign a statement of truth explaining what happened.
If there are no copies of the will, the HMCTS staff will try to “reconstruct” it. This may involve asking the deceased’s attorney for any notes made when the will was written.
Last week, the Justice Department announced plans to increase executors’ probation fees from £215 to £273 to address the department’s £85m shortfall.
Stephanie Boyce, president of the Law Society, said: ‘The Justice Department’s persistence in increasing benefits in the probate service is a cause for concern, especially when there are ongoing and significant delays in the probate service.
‘Any increase in fees should be reflected in the service provided.’
A spokesperson for HMCTS said: “We apologize for the distress caused and we are urgently investigating these delays.”
Exela Technologies did not respond to requests for comment.