Small Estates

What is a small estate?

A small estate is an estate where the total value of the deceased's money and property is £36000 or less. A 'large estate' is an estate where the total value is above this. In calculating the total value, you should not deduct any debts, such as funeral expenses, gas or electricity bills, balance of mortgage, owed by the deceased. The values of bank accounts etc must also include interest to date of death.

Help from the sheriff clerk

If you would like help from the sheriff clerk, to apply for confirmation in a small estate, you should contact the sheriff clerk's office in the area where the deceased last resided. However, if that is not convenient for you, you can ask your local sheriff clerk to complete the inventory for you, even if the person who died lived in an area covered by a different sheriff court. You should contact the sheriff clerk's office to make an appointment.

Before attending the appointment with the sheriff clerk, it would be helpful for you to complete the small estate checklist. This may help you to remember what to bring to court and will make sure that you have the information the sheriff clerk needs to complete the inventory.

Guidance notes:

Guidance notes are available explaining the small estate procedure in more detail.

Which forms do I need?

Application forms for small estates can be accessed on the HMRC website. You will need to complete the C1 form and the C5(SE) form.

Bond of Caution:

Bonds of caution are required in some circumstances where the deceased did not leave a will. The bond of caution is an insurance against someone applying for confirmation when they are not entitled to do so and against an executor failing to distribute the estate according to law.

Where the estate is under the £36,000 limit and the sheriff clerk’s office assists in the preparation of the Inventory form, then you will not need to obtain a bond of caution (as of 4 March 2016).

If a solicitor prepares the Inventory form, you will need to obtain a bond of caution before confirmation can be issued. Your solicitor will explain the procedure and costs involved in obtaining this document. 


How much does it cost?

The fees for applying for confirmation will depend on the value of the estate and the number of certificates you need to provide for different banks, insurance companies etc. to allow them to release the funds. The current fees can be accessed in the Sheriff Court Fees section.

You should note that these fees do not include any fees you may need to pay if you have instructed a solicitor to help you. The solicitor can give you information on these costs.

You cannot apply for fee exemption when applying for confirmation. 

The following estates are however are exempt from inheritance tax by virtue of:

  • section 153A (death of emergency service personnel etc.),
  • section 154 (death in active service etc.), or
  • section 155A (death of constables and service personnel targeted because of their status)

of the Inheritance Tax Act 1984  in which case there is no fee in respect of the inventory of that estate. However, fees for certificates, copies, etc. remain payable in these circumstances.

Where can I get legal advice?

Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service staff are not legally qualified and therefore cannot provide you with any legal advice. If you do need to get legal advice, the Law Society of Scotland can provide contact details for solicitors in your area.