You need to get confirmation of a will (the Scottish equivalent of probate) before you can administer the estate of someone who has died. But how long does confirmation of a will take in Scotland?
Annoyingly, the honest answer is “it depends”. You can expect an average of around three months, but the actual length of time varies depending on a wide range of factors.
Here is everything you need to know about how long it takes to apply for confirmation:
What Is Confirmation?
In Scotland, confirmation is the legal right to administer the estate of someone who has died. This will normally be in accordance with the wishes contained in their will.
The right is known as confirmation because it is designed to confirm that the executor named in the will is correctly stepping forward to do their duty.
However, unlike in the rest of the UK, if a person dies intestate (without a will) a similar process of confirmation is carried out. In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, this is replaced by applying for a Grant of Letters of Administration and becoming administrator of an estate instead of executor.
When Is Confirmation Required?
Confirmation is required even before an executor named in a will can deal with the deceased’s estate. This means that you cannot sell any property or usually access money contained in their bank accounts until after you get confirmation.
Some banks may let you engage in some limited activities without confirmation, such as:
- Access limited funds, with each bank setting its own threshold for what this is
- Pay necessary fees or funeral costs
- Full access if the estate is worth a very small total amount
Applying For Confirmation – What Is Needed?
In order to apply for confirmation, you will need:
1) The Inventory
This is an inventory of the deceased’s estate, listing accurate figures for the value of all of their heritable property (land and buildings) and moveable property (assets like money, investments, and possessions).
This has to be accurate as you will be personally (financially) liable for any mistakes. Thus, the process of inventorying large estates (valued at £36 000 or more) will usually include a professional valuation of any property or possessions.
You will need to fill in multiple forms found on the Scottish courts website. You will need copies of the death certificate and proof of your own ID and often more in order to complete the application process.
3) Complete And Correct Payment Of Inheritance Tax
You need to have properly valued the estate so that you know how much Inheritance Tax you will need to pay.
In Scotland, most estates valued over £325 000 will be liable to pay this tax. However, there are exemptions to this, well worth discussing with your solicitor or the other legal expert it’s very wise to consult for large estates.
How long does confirmation take in Scotland?
There is no fixed length of time that confirmation takes. You might expect the timeframe to be:
- Minimum – the fastest timeframe for the smallest and most straightforward estates could be anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks.
- Average – 3-4 months is the average length of time for a certificate of confirmation to come through.
- Large estate – 6 months is a more realistic timeframe for large estates or those with large numbers of assets.
What Affects How Long Confirmation Takes To Obtain?
1) Size And Complexity Of The Estate
An estate with many different assets or that has any level of complexity is likely to take additional time for the courts to process.
This makes it doubly important to ensure all valuations in the inventory are accurate and can’t be contested or called into question by the courts.
2) Whether There Is A Will Or Not
If there is no will, you can still apply for confirmation if you are the deceased’s spouse or close relative (there is a specific order of priority for which relative should apply first in Scottish law).
However, applying for confirmation will then include additional steps that will take more time, such as:
- A Bond of Caution – the purpose of this is to ensure the person applying to be executor will distribute the legacies and inheritance to the right people.
- The dative petition procedure – is necessary when applying for confirmation relating to large intestate estates (where there is no will) and will take additional time.
3) If The Will Or Confirmation Is Contested
If anyone contests your right to be the executor or sometimes the will itself this can add extra time to the process.
4) Mistakes In The Application Process
Finally, one of the biggest causes of delays or outright failures when applying for confirmation in Scotland is errors made in the process.
For example, assets might be valued incorrectly or missed altogether. Alternatively, forms may be filled out incorrectly – this is very common as there is a great deal of legal language involved.
Is There Anything I Can Do To Speed Up The Application?
Making sure that you don’t fall afoul of any of the common errors or pitfalls above is the best advice. This will often mean engaging a professional probate or confirmation solicitor for any but the smallest and simplest of estates.
Plus, how long confirmation of a will takes in Scotland depends largely on the courts involved and the complexity of the case. This means it is good to make a start on the process as soon as you feel you are able to.
Need to talk through applying for confirmation with a specialist?
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