The One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) has called for an update on staffing and training levels in the Supreme Court’s probate office. 

Robin Tucker, the Senate Opposition leader, spoke out following reports on delays in probate processing and disposing of estate cases. To recap, numerous families were facing significant delays in the estate processing of deceased relatives last year.

The build-up of cases since 2019 was apparently due to the lack of staff and insufficient resources.

What’s In the 2023 Report?

Families are experiencing significant delays in the processing of their deceased relatives’ estates, sometimes enduring waits of nearly two years.

Sources familiar with the situation attribute the backlog in the Supreme Court to a shortage of staff and inadequate resources.

According to numbers the probate department released last year, there are 115 outstanding cases. While the majority — 85 — were current, 29 cases from 2022 remain unprocessed, with an additional two dating back to 2019.

Bermuda’s probate process closely mirrors Britain’s and can be time-consuming, particularly for complex estates. However, an executor of the estate of a late individual from last year described the delay as “ridiculous.”

A Repeat of the 2023 Situation

Addressing the Motion to Adjourn in the Senate today, Tucker expressed her concern, labeling the delays a national “embarrassment.”

She stated, “Unless I missed it, we haven’t received any updates on the progress to enhance the processing times for probate applications.” As per the latest report, the courts have already been delayed a year in processing these applications due to staffing shortages.

Tucker maintains that knowing the authorities’ measures to address these staffing concerns would be best. She is also asking if there are training initiatives to expedite probate application processes and bring about improvements.

According to her, the processing of applications typically spans between 12 to 18 months, which is considered relatively standard. However, some time ago, this timeframe was around nine months, which she regarded as still quite lengthy.

Wait Times Causing Anguish to the Surviving Family

Tucker further explained that wait times of 12 to 18 months are utterly unreasonable. This long period of waiting for the case to settle is simply unacceptable.

She disagreed by stating that, as a nation, it’s disheartening that we have such prolonged wait times. This waiting game is causing additional anguish for families already grappling with loss due to delayed probate processes.

We can and we need to do better. I would look forward to an update as to where things are, and hopefully that update speaks to significant improvements being made,” Tucker added. 

None of the Government senators spoke during the Motion to Adjourn. They neither offered to provide the Opposition with an update later.

Tucker Explaining the Problem Further

Tucker said she’s viewing this issue from the perspective of how families must feel. She challenged the court to consider a scenario where a spouse creates a will to secure their surviving partner’s well-being.

She pointed out that if the deceased spouse’s name is on the asset lists, it would be challenging for the heirs. For instance, if they have children. In that case, how would they manage school expenses when they cannot access the funds in the bank account?

How will the surviving spouse manage their day-to-day expenses and fulfill financial obligations when caring for older adults?

Considering the perspective of the families, Tucker asks about the efforts to address staffing concerns and necessary training. She added that addressing the concerns she raised could alleviate some of the burdens families endure due to delays.

She stressed that the court must examine the issue from the viewpoint of those most impacted — the families.