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What is confirmation?

When someone dies, assets such as their bank accounts and insurance policies are frozen. This happens in every case and isn't dependent on whether the deceased left a Last will and testament. Someone (eg the executors of the will) needs to get permission to have access to the deceased's assets to deal with things like paying debts and closing accounts, as well as distributing the estate further down the line. Confirmation allows this person to ‘administer' the estate by having access to the person's money and property. Confirmation is the legal document that allows this person to administer the estate.

Who administers the estate?

If the person who has died left a Last will and testament, this will identify who they wish to appoint as their ‘executor'. This person will take on the role of administering the estate. For more information, read Elements of a will

What if the deceased didn't leave a will?

If there isn't a will (ie the deceased died ‘intestate’) or if a will does not name an executor, the Sheriff Court can appoint an ‘executor dative’ to act as executor. This will typically be the deceased’s surviving spouse or civil partner. If there is no such person, another person entitled to inherit from the estate (eg the deceased’s grandchildren or siblings) may apply. For more information, read Intestacy rules in Scotland.

How does the executor get a grant of confirmation?

The executor needs to apply to the Commissary Department of the Sheriff Court that serves the area where the deceased lived at the time they died. The executor will need to provide an inventory of all the deceased's property (eg money, shares or houses) at the time of death. Confirmation is only possible if the inventory includes at least one item of property in Scotland.

There are different steps to take and forms to fill in depending on the size of the deceased's estate. Because of this, someone will need to complete a valuation of the estate taking into account both the assets and liabilities. Liabilities are any outstanding debt that the deceased left, such as a mortgage, bank loans or overdrafts. These are deducted from the value of the estate. As valuing an estate can be complicated, it is advisable to get someone (eg a solicitor or accountant) to help you.

Completing the right forms

To get a certificate of confirmation, there are some forms to complete. In every case, you will need to fill out Form C1 (also known as the 'inventory’). You then need to fill out additional forms depending on the size of the estate.

Small estates

This is an estate where the total value of money and property is £36,000 or less.

You will need to call the sheriff clerk's office to make an appointment to receive a certificate of confirmation. This will be at the sheriff clerk's office in the area where the deceased lived.

Before granting confirmation, the sheriff clerk will also help you to draw up a list of belongings, other valuables and money of the person who died. You must bring all relevant information with you to the court, including the:

  • details of the deceased, including the original death certificate

  • names and addresses of the executors

  • original will and any related papers (eg a codicil)

  • details of the property owned (eg garage, parking space, boat, car or timeshare)

  • details of any bank and building society accounts, including bank statements and balances

  • furniture and personal effects with an estimated value (any valuable items may need to be assessed for value by an auctioneer)

Provided the total value of the estate is less than £36,000 and all the other documents are valid and correct, a certificate of confirmation is granted fairly quickly.

Large estate

this is an estate worth over £36,000 is a large estate.

If you are administering a large estate it is recommended that you instruct a solicitor to help you. While the sheriff clerk can assist in completing forms for a small estate, they are prohibited from doing this for large estates.

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