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Guide to what do to if someone dies in Scotland: the FAQ’s in winding up an estate

This guide seeks to answer some of the questions frequently asked by those appointed as executors and tasked with winding up an estate after someone dies. The job of winding up an estate may seem daunting, however, understanding what is involved, as well as receiving advice from specialist solicitors, can help make the process smoother.

How are executors appointed?

When a person dies and has left a Will (known as dying ‘testate’), they will have appointed executors who are responsible for carrying out that person’s wishes. The deceased will have normally asked those nominated whether they are willing and able to be executors when the time comes. However, if someone does not want to carry out the responsibility of being an executor, they are allowed to refuse. 

When a person dies without a Will (known as dying intestate) or the chosen executors in the Will have died or unable to carry out the role, the Court will appoint an executor. A Court appointed executor is called an executor dative, and will usually be someone who is entitled to inherit (a beneficiary), such as a surviving spouse or civil partner. To be appointed as an executor dative, the applicant should contact the nearest Sheriff Court to where the deceased lived.

What if I change my mind about being an executor?

Being an executor brings with it a lot of responsibility. Should any claims be raised against the estate then the executor must deal with them. As such, when carrying out these duties, detailed records should be kept to ensure all conduct is appropriately documented. It is for this reason that a party should think carefully before accepting an invitation to be an executor.

In Scotland, an executor can step down as long as they are not the only named executor in the Will. Should they be the sole executor, they must appoint someone to take their place.

What do I do when the person dies in Scotland?

When a person dies, it is important to swiftly begin the tasks involved in being an executor.

If necessary, register the death and notify the family doctor. Attend to the funeral and check for any funeral wishes. If necessary, inform family, friends and work colleagues of the death and offer details of the funeral to allow them to attend. When an invoice is received for the funeral expenses, this can be presented to the deceased’s bank or building society along with a death certificate to allow them to issue a cheque for the amount due payable to the funeral director.

It is important to identify where the most up-to-date version of the person’s Will is being kept and get the original (or a copy if that isn’t possible). The death certificate will allow the Will to be released.

If the deceased died intestate (without a Will), then an application to the local Sheriff Court where the deceased lived will be required to allow a party to act as an executor. Once an executor is appointed or approved by the Court, a grant of Confirmation is required, which gives the executor the legal rights to deal with the property owned by the deceased.

What is Confirmation?

A grant of Confirmation affords an executor legal rights over a deceased person’s property, money and possessions. This is a legal document that confirms that the Will is valid and allows the executor to deal with the estate.

To obtain Confirmation, an executor must provide a list of all the deceased's property at the time of death. This list is known as the inventory and often includes details concerning money, houses, land and shares owned by the deceased, such as bank account numbers and professional valuations of property at the time of death. It is only possible to be granted Confirmation if the inventory includes at least one item of money or other property in Scotland.

What do I do once Confirmation is obtained?

Once a grant of Confirmation is received, it is possible to begin in-gathering the deceased’s property and possessions. An executor should wait six months after the date of the death before distributing the estate so that any claims, such as from individuals or creditors, can be made known.

After this period, it is possible to start distributing the estate in accordance with the wishes of the deceased, subject to the payment of prior rights (a surviving spouse’s or civil partner’s rights to part of the deceased’s estate) and legal rights (a surviving spouse’s, civil partner’s and children’s rights to part of the deceased’s moveable estate).

When am I no longer responsible as an executor?

Executors must ensure there have been no claims against the estate during the six months following Confirmation and that there were no claims made by cohabitees in the six months after the date of death. Additionally, all possible claims for legal rights should be settled.

Personal items bequeathed to specific individuals (beneficiaries) should be distributed when all assets and debts have been accounted for, with a receipt received from each beneficiary. Accounts should be drawn up and approval of these accounts received from all residuary beneficiaries (those who may be entitled to inherit). Following this, the executor’s account should be closed when all payments have been made.

As stated previously, the executor should keep detailed records. This is so that if any claims are raised against the estate, then the executor will be better able to deal with them. In this way, the responsibility as an executor can sometimes last longer than the administration of the estate.

Winding Up an Estate - Experienced and Approachable Probate & Executry Solicitors in Aberdeen, Scotland

Whatever aspect of winding up an estate you may be facing, our executry team are ready to help. You’ll receive proactive legal advice and support that’s specific to your circumstances, aimed at making the executry process as smooth as possible. To find out more about how our experienced executry solicitors can help in Inverurie, Oldmeldrum, Huntly and other surrounding areas in Aberdeen please contact us or call on 01224 456 789

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