The loss of a loved one is upsetting enough.

However, as soon becomes clear, the emotional toll is added to by the necessary administration of the someone’s estate.

A key part of that process if the deceased has left a will is the granting of probate, a legal document which enables their executors to access bank accounts, sell assets and settle debts.

If someone dies without making a will, something similar called a Letter of Administration is required instead.

Recent figures made available by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) illustrate how securing either document is anything but swift.

They show that, between April and June this year, probate grants were only being issued 14 weeks after submission on average – the longest that it’s taken for four years.

Even those submissions made online were taking four weeks longer than they had done just 12 months previously.

Such hold-ups have very practical and concerning consequences.

I have had clients placed in acutely pressurised situations as a result. One individual almost had their home repossessed because delays in a probate grant being issued meant that they couldn’t sort out their late partner’s estate.

Help, though, may be at hand – although it may also not be as rapid as those affected and the practitioners like myself to whom they turn might wish.

The House of Commons’ Justice Select Committee has just announced an inquiry into probate, prompted by the kind of delays which I have outlined.

In setting out the terms of reference for the investigation, Committee chair, Sir Bob Neill, described how the waiting time for grants of probate had actually doubled in the course of the last year.

Interested individuals and organisations now have until the end of January to outline their experiences and their suggestions as to how the process might be made more speedy and more fair.

I should point out that probate is, of course, just one part of the wider process of administering the estate of someone who has passed away.

If that estate is subject to Inheritance Tax (IHT), then any liability needs to be settled within six months of a person’s death. Amounts of outstanding IHT incur interest payments.

That is challenging enough, considering that assets like homes may need to sold or shares liquidated within that timeframe and such a sale requires a Grant of Probate.

The fact that it is taking half that six-month period on average for probate to be completed, means the bereaved are confronted with an additional degree of difficulty.

It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that some people find it hard knowing just where to start, let alone how to expedite a submission in order to ward off the demands of mortgage lenders or the taxman.

Given that probate is a reserved activity and can only be performed by accredited practitioners or lay persons, it is possible that some of the backlog could be due to individuals having issues with the process itself.

That might be rectified, for instance, by enabling more of the probate process to be done online. Currently, anything other than the most straightforward circumstances are still dealt with on paper and those paper-based applications need to be logged and processed, something which can itself take time.

I await the outcome of the Justice Committee’s work with no little sense of anticipation.

Death is one of life’s unavoidable certainties. Making the associated administration less onerous and time-consuming would, in my opinion, go a long to ensuring that loss is not compounded by labour and liability.