A step by step guide to the formalities of handling the estate of a loved one in Scotland

When we lose a loved one, the last place our mind wanders to is to the administrative tasks which are precipitated by it.  When faced with death, the procedural formalities which follow can often feel burdensome, and distracting from the ability to grieve and to process the loss. It is not uncommon through periods of intense grief to have very little recollection of that time, when we start to appear from the fog at the other end.  Grief adversely affects the brain’s usual functioning – memory, rational thought, information processing, situational response, but to name but a few. It is therefore not surprising in the days after the death of a loved one to find yourself asking, what now?

Preparation for the future – Trusts, Wills, Powers of Attorney, Guardianships – and considering the ‘what if’s’ of old age, and in some cases tragedy, in no way prepares us for death. There is no manual for grief, nor for the process which is required of those that are left behind. Or is there?

We hope in this article to provide some insight into the practicalities of losing a loved one. This will act as a step by step guide to the formalities of death, and how to cope with the administrative burden, whilst lugging around your own grief and loss.

The days after…

In the days following the death of a loved one, often shock and grief are settling in, and it is not unusual to be overwhelmed with what comes next. When an individual has no experience of loss, it is rare that they would know the next steps, as it is not a topic which is widely discussed. Here, we lay out some tips for the days after:

  • Don’t rush, don’t panic

Everything in life is done at 100 miles an hour. We are always in a rush. When we are dealing with grief and loss, often it feels like the world has stopped spinning, or that it should. In the days after a death, there is no need to panic about dealing with the administrative burdens as these take time. The process of dealing with the death of a loved one can be  slow and protracted at times.

  • The death certificate

The first step is registering the death. This is done at your local registration office. Until the death is registered and you have a valid death certificate, there is very little you can do. The registrar will provide you with a death certificate, this will cost around £15 per copy. They will refer you to a service called “Tell us once”. This is a service whereby the DWP, HMRC and Local Authority are notified of the death.

  • The funeral

Once the death certificate has been obtained, the next step generally is to plan the funeral. The person who has passed away  may have prepared for this by way of a funeral plan, direction in a Will, or it may be up to you as the family to plan this at your discretion. The worry is often how this will be funded, especially where you may not have access to your loved one’s  funds at this stage. Funeral directors are aware of this, and will be generally sympathetic and patient to this. You may send the funeral invoice to the  bank that your loved one used, who will release the funds to the funeral director directly, before the Estate is dealt with. You may also fund this personally, and claim this back from the Estate.

After the funeral…..

When the difficult task of planning the funeral is over, and your loved one  has been laid to rest, you may at this stage begin to consider the assets which are left behind – a property, money in the bank, a car, pension, personal belongings and so on. The extent of the assets in the Estate will determine the course of action which is required.

  • Small estate in Scotland

Where the person who has passed away left a small Estate, e.g. no property and funds under £36,000 it is likely that you will be able to deal with the Estate using the death certificate and Will. Where no Will is left, the process may vary.

  • Large and heritable Estate in Scotland

Where the  person who passed away had property, either in joint names with a spouse or partner, or in their own name, Confirmation may be required to sell or transfer the property. Confirmation is a process whereby an application is made to the  local Sheriff Court with an inventory of their Estate (a list of all the assets which your loved one held at the time of their death). The court will then authorise the administration of the Estate by providing a certificate of Confirmation. You may have heard this referred to as probate, which is the English equivalent. Where a person who has passed away in Scotland owns heritable property (land and/or buildings), Confirmation has to be obtained to sell or transfer this. There are exceptions to this rule – our upcoming article on Survivorship Destinations will refer to this specifically. Confirmation may also be required where there is no heritable property , but the person who passed away  had considerable assets in the bank, or investments and shares. Again, the application to the court is made and a certificate is provided to allow such funds to be released.

This process can be daunting, and it is at this stage that many families will look to engage a Solicitor to assist them with the application for confirmation. Your Solicitor can handle the administration of the Estate from beginning to end, and can take the pressure of having to deal with the administrative burden of losing a loved one from you.

Our Private Client team have considerable experience in dealing with these matters, and will ensure that the Estate of your loved one is handled with sensitivity and compassion. If you should require our assistance, or further advice please do not hesitate to contact us on 0141 374 2121 or email info@scullionlaw.com.

Private Client|Wills and Future Planning


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Email: info@scullionlaw.com

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0141 374 2121

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0141 374 2121