Do I need confirmation for a small estate in Scotland?
What constitutes a small estate is actually defined by Scottish law as one with a total value under £36 000. Confirmation is the legal right to deal with the estate of someone who has died. But do you need confirmation for a small estate in Scotland?
The short answer is yes. But you can get free assistance to apply for it from the Sheriff Court.
However, it’s worth knowing a little more about confirmation and the application process before you choose how to proceed:
What is in an estate?
An estate is everything that a person who has died owned. In Scotland, this is broadly summarised by two groups:
- Heritable assets – their house, other property and land.
- Moveable assets – money in their bank accounts, personal possessions, shares and investments and so on.
What is the threshold for a small estate in Scotland?
The threshold for a small estate in Scotland is £36 000. If the estate is worth less than this, it is “small”. Any bigger, it’s a “large” estate.
Don’t forget that in Scotland the value of the estate doesn’t include any debts or other sums that the deceased owed.
What is the difference with a small estate in terms of confirmation?
The only real difference with a small estate when it comes to confirmation is that a small estate tends to be a simpler one.
The official known as the Sheriff Clerk is also able to help you apply for confirmation if it is for a small estate. They are not legally allowed to do this for large estates, so you’ll need to search out reliable legal expertise if the estate is valued over that £36 000 threshold.
Who deals with the estate?
The person who applies for confirmation is aiming to be “confirmed” as executor of the will if they are named in it. If there is no will or no named executor, the courts will usually appoint one – and you can apply for the role if you are a close family member (a set priority order of the deceased’s relations is set out).
If there is more than one executor – and there frequently is, because it’s sensible to name several in case any were to predecease the person whose will it is – they have different options when it comes to decision-making.
But before even a named executor can start dealing with the estate of someone who has died, they must successfully apply for confirmation.
How to deal with the estate of a person who has died
Dealing with the estate of someone who has died includes several tasks, including:
- Organise the funeral – it is often possible to access some funds from the deceased’s bank accounts to pay funeral costs even before you receive your Grant of Confirmation document.
- Prepare to inventory their estate – this will mean locating all of their banks accounts, any investments they have, and more.
- Apply for confirmation – before you are allowed to distribute their assets in line with the will or access more funds from their accounts, you need to obtain the legal right to do so. This is called confirmation.
Do I need a solicitor to obtain confirmation?
If the estate is worth less than £36 000 and there is a will, you will not always need a solicitor to help you obtain confirmation. The assistance of the Sheriff Clerk is usually invaluable here.
Yet it’s worth bearing in mind that the confirmation application process isn’t exactly simple. It includes:
- Paperwork – you’ll need to fill in several legal forms and send them to the Sheriff Courts. These can be contested either by the courts or others if they are incorrect.
- Inventory – it’s your responsibility to create an inventory of all of the deceased’s assets and their values.
- Pay Inheritance Tax – this needs to be the correct figure based on an accurate inventory. Otherwise, you leave yourself personally liable to pay costs later on. You need to pay the correct Inheritance Tax before you get confirmation.
If the estate is small and simple (that is to say, it doesn’t consist of many different assets – perhaps just a single bank account and some possessions) it might be possible to handle getting confirmation yourself.
But, while you don’t technically need a solicitor to obtain confirmation for a small estate, a legal expert can save you time and protect you from the worries of being personally liable for any mistakes later on.
Can I use a solicitor just for the difficult parts?
One potential solution is to find a solicitor just for the more complex parts.
In general, while you do need confirmation for a small estate in Scotland and while you can apply for it yourself, it’s often a good idea to at least talk it over with a legal professional first to make sure you won’t have any problems.
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