Confirmation In Scotland – large estates
Getting confirmation in Scotland for large estates (those valued at £36 000 or more) is more challenging than for small estates.
For a start, the Sheriff clerk (who can assist you with small estates) is not allowed to help you here.
That’s why getting legal advice from a solicitor or other legal professional is nearly always worthwhile when you need to get confirmation for a large estate. Here is what you need to know:
What Is A Large Estate?
In Scottish law, a “large estate” isn’t just a matter of opinion. It is an estate where the combined value of the assets of the person who has died is £36 000 or more.
This usually means that a house or other property is involved. On other occasions, there might be multiple bank accounts, investments, and more.
As the executor, you can be personally liable (i.e. you can end up needing to pay) for mistakes made during the process of closing the estate down. This is why it’s best practice to engage legal assistance.
What Is Confirmation?
In Scotland, confirmation is the legal right to administer the estate of someone who has died. This includes distributing inheritance to the beneficiaries following the wishes laid out in the will – or following the Rules of Intestacy if the person died intestate (without a will).
The process of applying for the legal document called the Grant of Confirmation (sometimes “certificate of confirmation”) is the equivalent of applying for probate (either a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration) in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.
Why Do I Need A Certificate Of Confirmation?
Without confirmation, you will find it difficult or impossible to convince a bank to let you access the accounts of someone who has died and it is not legal to sell any property they may own.
Once you have a certificate of Confirmation, you can send the bank a copy. They will then allow you to remove the funds in preparation for distributing them following the will.
There are some circumstances where you might be able to do some limited things without confirmation. This might include paying funeral costs from the deceased’s bank account or accessing smaller amounts of money, for example.
However, this latter exception is less likely for a large estate.
Can You Apply For Confirmation For A Large Estate Without A Solicitor?
Yes, it is technically possible to apply for confirmation for a large estate without a solicitor. However, the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service is not allowed to assist you, as they would for a small estate (one valued at under £36 000).
It’s worth reiterating how important this makes it to get legal advice you can trust. Without it, you are open to paying the costs for mistakes made in the process yourself.
The more complex and larger an estate gets, the more difficult and time-consuming it becomes to get confirmation for:
1) More Documentary Proof Is Needed
Without a solicitor, you will also need to provide additional documentary proof in the form of:
- The death certificate
- The will, if any
- An extract of the will if it has been registered with the Sheriff Court of Books of Council and Session
2) Taking Inventory Of The Estate Is Harder
One of the requirements when applying for confirmation is an inventory of the estate. This is a list of all the deceased’s assets with an accurate valuation of each attached.
Do be aware that valuations can be challenged by the courts and you can be liable for mistakes made – for example – when paying the correct Inheritance Tax because of inaccurate valuations.
You don’t subtract the value of any debts the deceased owes from this inventory. However, you do need to be sure that you have included all of their:
- Heritable property – including land and buildings.
- Moveable assets – money in bank accounts, investments such as stocks and shares, and personal possessions.
3) Pay The Correct Inheritance Tax
In Scotland, most large estates worth over £325 000 are liable for Inheritance Tax. This needs to be paid at the same time as you apply for confirmation, or preferably before.
To determine how much this will be, the inventory needs to be completed and sent to the courts for processing (there is a fee for this even though it is mandatory).
Some estates are exempt from paying Inheritance Tax. This is only usually if the deceased lived permanently in another country for a long period before they passed away or if all the estate’s value above the £325 000 threshold will go to their spouse or certain types of charities.
Again, it’s worth talking to a specialist probate or confirmation solicitor to make sure you’re paying the correct tax.
Can I Apply For Confirmation For A Large Estate If There Is No Will?
Yes, you can still apply for confirmation for a large estate in Scotland even if there is no will.
However, if the deceased died “intestate” (without a will), there are additional steps required by the confirmation application process. You will need:
- A Bond of Caution – necessary for all intestate estates, this is a kind of safeguard against executors applying for confirmation for an estate they’re not eligible for or trying to distribute inheritances to the wrong beneficiaries.
- The dative petition process – is required to show that you are the closest relative to someone who has died intestate, and thus eligible to be confirmed as executor of the estate. This requires proving your identity to the court.
How Long Does It Take To Get Confirmation For A Large Estate?
It would not be uncommon for the executor of a large estate to take six months or possibly more to be confirmed.
The sooner you can get started (ideally with expert legal advice to help you), the sooner confirmation in Scotland will be granted for a large estate.
Want to talk to an expert about applying for confirmation for a large estate?
Solicitors Near Me will find you the perfect specialist – with no cost or obligation.
Contact Solicitors Near Me
To find a specialist solicitor near you, simply click the button below, enter a few details and we will soon connect you with a probate solicitor for FREE.