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The difference between obtaining confirmation for small estates and large estates

Confirmation is a legal document that must be obtained by an executor before any money and property belonging to the deceased can be uplifted from the holder (such as the bank) and distributed accordingly.

There are two types of confirmation in Scotland; confirmation for small estates and for large estates. In this blog, we will cover the distinctions between a small and large estate, as well as the different procedures depending on what type of estate the application relates to.

What is classed as a small estate?

A small estate is an estate where the total value of the deceased’s money and property is valued at £36,000 or less. To apply for confirmation in a small estate, the executor will need to complete a C1 and C5(SE) form.

The executor of the estate must collate a list of everything that the deceased owned – such as land or shares – to calculate the total value. It is important to note that the application form must also include any debts (for example, gas or electricity bills) owed by the deceased.

To apply for Confirmation, the executor should contact the Sheriff Clerk’s office in the area that the deceased lived at the time of death. However, the executor can also ask their local Sheriff Clerk for assistance, even if the deceased lived in an area covered by a different Sheriff Court.

If there is a will for a small estate

The procedure changes depending on whether a will was left by the deceased. If there is a will, the executor of the small estate should go to the Sheriff Clerk’s office with the following items:

  • The will
  • Personal details of the deceased and his or her family
  • A full list of the estate and its value as it stood at the date of death including any interest, dividends or bonuses to be added to any bank accounts, stock and shares or insurance policies
  • The death certificate
  • Two items of identification (valid passport or driving licence plus a current council tax statement or recent utility bill)

Large estates in Scotland

If the estate is worth more than £36,000, the Sheriff Clerk’s staff cannot help to prepare the inventory, and it is highly recommended that the executor seeks legal guidance. If the executor chooses not to use a professional estate administration service, they will need to gather all the necessary information to complete the C1 and C5 form.

The executor should be aware that estates with a value of more than £325,000 may be liable to Inheritance Tax and require an IHT400 form to be completed. The IHT400 form is 16 pages long with 92 pages of notes to go with it. A recent consultation of close to 3,000 people found that more than one-third of respondents who did not use an adviser spent over 50 hours administering an estate; most of the time in which was spent on the IHT process. Any IHT liability must be paid before or at the same time as making the application for confirmation. This means a short-term bank loan may be required to pay the tax before the executor can receive any money into the estate.

Dealing with a large estate can often be complicated and there are legal consequences to obtaining confirmation. In the event of any mistake being made, the executor is legally responsible and the remedies for correcting errors are few and potentially expensive. That is why it is always recommended to instruct a solicitor to help you. At Wilson & Fish, our qualified lawyers have the expertise to assist executors with all aspects of obtaining confirmation and winding up an estate. You can read our complete guide to confirmation here.

What happens when no will is left for a small or large estate?

When applying to be appointed executor for a small estate, the same information that is required where there is a will (see the above list) should be provided to the Sheriff Clerk’s office. However, if the deceased did not leave a will, the executor may have to obtain an insurance policy known as a Bond of Caution before applying for confirmation of the estate. A Bond of Caution is a guarantor’s agreement that the executor will carry out their duties correctly.

In Scotland, if the executor is dealing with a large estate with no will, there is an additional step in the procedure. The appropriate person would need to apply to the Sheriff Court to be appointed executor, using the dative petition procedure.

Contact our Estate Administration Lawyers Glasgow

Dealing with the death of a loved one can be difficult, and the pressure of obtaining confirmation and handling administrative duties can feel overwhelming at such an emotional time. Our specialist team can ease the burden of winding up an estate and provide you with qualified legal guidance and support. Get in touch today with one of our professional exectury solicitors via the online enquiry form.

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