What to do after a death in Scotland: ... practical advice for times of bereavement - 8th Edition

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12. SMALL ESTATES

What is a small estate?

All estates with a total (gross) value of less than £30,000 are classed as small. This figure will change from time to time. You should check with your local Citizens Advice Bureau or with the sheriff clerk what the current limit is. You should note that confirmation need only be obtained if required by a fund holder, for example a bank.

Confirmation without a solicitor

If you are the executor of a small estate you may choose to employ a solicitor to get confirmation from the court, or you may obtain confirmation without a solicitor. If you decide to obtain confirmation without a solicitor, there are special rules in place and the sheriff clerk will help you.

The advantage of doing it without a solicitor is that you avoid paying solicitor's charges. You will only need to pay the statutory confirmation fee which must be paid before confirmation is issued. On the other hand, even if you obtain confirmation without a solicitor, you may still require a solicitor to assist in interpreting any will and dividing up the estate.

You should note that after confirmation to a small estate has been obtained, the sheriff clerk cannot assist the executor any further.

If you wish to obtain confirmation without a solicitor, the sheriff clerk will help you to prepare the documents. You should consult the sheriff clerk early on to ensure that you are collecting the correct information. You should telephone or call at your local sheriff clerk's office to arrange an appointment.

The procedure then varies according to whether or not there is a will.

If there is a will

If there is a will, you should go to the sheriff clerk's office and take with you:

  • The will;
  • Personal details of the dead person and his or her family;
  • A full list of the estate and its value as it stood at the date of the death including any interest, dividends or bonuses to be added to any bank accounts, stocks and shares or insurance policies;
  • The certificate of death.

The sheriff clerk will complete the necessary forms, and if no further enquiries are necessary will issue confirmation within a few days.

If there is no will

If you are applying to be appointed executor ( see section 11) you should provide the sheriff clerk's office with the same information as that required where there is a will. The process of confirmation is the same as when there is a will, except that you may need to get a "bond of caution" (pronounced kay-shun).

A bond of caution is a guarantor's agreement that the executor will carry out his or her duties correctly. You would normally get one from an insurance company. It insures against losses in the handling of the estate. A company will charge a fee for this. You will be asked to provide proof of your identity and of your relationship with the person.

The sheriff clerk will advise you about this.

After getting confirmation

After you have obtained confirmation to the small estate, you will need to "in-gather" the estate ( see Section 11) then distribute it to those legally entitled (more about distributing the estate at section 13 and Part V).