Confirmation: Find out about the probate process in Scotland

The probate process in Scotland

To deal with the deceased’s estate in Scotland you need to obtain the equivalent of probate, known as ‘Confirmation’, before any money and other property belonging to the deceased can be released. It is often a bank, building society, or insurance company that will ask for this.

Confirmation is almost always needed when the person who dies leaves one or more of the following:

  • £5,000 or more (although the figure can vary significantly depending upon which institution is holding the funds. In practice in some cases, Confirmation can be dispensed with in cases where the estate is worth up to £36,000, but in other cases, lower limits will apply, depending upon which institution is holding the assets)
  • Stocks or shares
  • Certain insurance policies
  • Property or land held in their own name or jointly with another without a survivorship destination in the title.

In most cases above, the bank or relevant institution will need to see the Confirmation before transferring control of the assets. However, if the estate is small, some organizations, such as insurance companies and building societies, may release the money to you at their discretion.

Confirmation is a legal document from the court giving the Executor(s) authority to deal with the person’s land, property, money, and possessions (their ‘estate’). The application is made to the Sheriff’s Court.

When you apply for Confirmation, you need to create an Inventory. This is a full list of the deceased’s estate and one of the main considerations for probate in Scotland.

You can only apply for Confirmation in Scotland if there is money or other property in Scotland.

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The estate

There are two types of estates in Scotland – a small estate, with an inventory value of less than £36,000, and a large estate, which is any inventory with a value above this amount.

When creating the inventory, you do not include any debts or costs that are still to be paid, such as a mortgage balance, funeral expenses, or bills owed.

If there is a will, this will say what the deceased wants to happen with their estate. The will may also include funeral instructions and should also appoint an Executor who will be eligible to apply for confirmation.

If there isn’t a will, sometimes referred to as Intestate, the procedure to follow will depend on the size of the estate. For a small estate, there are additional steps, and you need to be appointed Executor using the dative petition procedure. This can be quite complex and follows the Rights of Succession for Scotland.

In these cases, call the National Bereavement Service helpline for free* at 0800 0246 121 and we can offer support.

We also recommend you seek legal advice from a solicitor (we can help) or advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Fees involved in confirmation

The fees to be paid are based on the value of the inventory, plus the cost of the certificate of confirmation. Read more here.

Do you need a bond of caution?

If there is no will, you might need to get something called a ‘bond of caution from a guarantor in order to get confirmation. This document acts as insurance against someone obtaining Confirmation in Scotland when they’re not actually entitled to do so or failing to distribute assets as required by law.

With small estates, you do not need a bond of caution if you’re the spouse or civil partner of the person who has died and someone from the sheriff clerk’s office has helped you put together your inventory.