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Confirmation in Scotland

This information only applies in Scotland.

After a person has died, a legal document needs to be obtained before the money and property that make up the deceased's estate can be released. This document is called a ‘confirmation paper’ or 'confirmation' for short.

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 will. Someone 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. The grant of confirmation (also known as the ‘certificate of confirmation’) is the legal document that allows this person to administer 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.

If there isn't a will (ie the deceased died ‘intestate’), close family members can apply to the Sheriff Court to act as the executor and administer the estate. This will usually be the spouse or civil partner of the person who has died, one of their children, or a sibling or parent.

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. 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.

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.

This is an estate where the total value of money and property is £36,000 or less. You will then need to fill out Form C5 (SE) (2006).

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.

An estate worth over £36,000 is a large estate. You will need to complete Form C5 (2006). If the estate is valued at over £325,000, you will also need to complete Form IHT400 for inheritance tax purposes.

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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