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Part three of four in the “What Do I Do When Losing A Loved One?” Guide Series.

Confirmation is the equivalent of probate in England and Wales and consists of a legal document from the Court that grants power to the Executor to deal with the assets of a deceased person. It means that they can access money wherever that might be held, and then administer it in accordance of a Will or the laws of succession. Without it, a bank or insurance company may refuse access to funds.

Do I need a certificate of Confirmation in all cases?

There are only two instances where confirmation may not be needed.

  1. Where the estate is worth less than £5,000
  2. Where everything is owned jointly and will be passing to the surviving owner.
  3. In all other cases, Confirmation is necessary to administer your estate.

Applying for Confirmation

When an Executor applies for Confirmation, they must supply an inventory of all the estate valued at the date of the death. It must include at least one item of money or property in Scotland. 

What’s it worth?

It’s important to value the estate because if the total estate is worth less than £36,000, the Sheriff Clerk can help you with the Confirmation process.  An estate of this size is known as a ‘small estate’.

If the estate is worth more than £36,000, the Sheriff Clerk cannot help you with Confirmation. This is known as a ‘large estate’.

When an Executor calculates the value of the estate, they must not deduct any debts owing. Inheritance tax must also be calculated at this time, on the full value of the estate. 

Inheritance Tax liability

Inheritance Tax can be payable in any estate worth over £325,000. Anything above this could potentially be liable to Inheritance Tax, which is 40% of the estate above £325,000 (or 36% if you leave at least 10% of your net estate to a charity).  This has to be paid by the end of the sixth month after the death. HMRC will charge interest if it’s not paid by the due date.   

Anything left to a spouse or civil partner is exempt from Inheritance Tax. There are also various other potential exemptions which can apply to the estate. Therefore it’s important to get advice when calculating what Inheritance Tax, if any, may be payable by an estate.

Even if an estate doesn’t require to pay Inheritance Tax, you still need to report it to HMRC.

Confirmation without a Will

The process of Confirmation is different if there’s no Will. If there is a large estate, the Executor must apply to the Sheriff Court to be appointed. In addition to the requirements outlined above the Executor would also have to obtain an insurance policy – known as a Bond of Caution – before applying for Confirmation.

Ingathering

Once the Executor has the Certificate of Confirmation, then the Executor can ‘ingather’ the estate. This means that they can physically collect and realise the assets in the estates. This may include selling property.  

Next section: How Do I Distribute An Estate?

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