In my previous blog I explained the changes to Bonds of Caution, following the Succession (Scotland) Act 2016. In Glasgow, on 25 November 2016, an individual, Mr Garnett, wrote a letter to the court asking the sheriff to waive the requirement for Caution; and with that the required cost of the premium, solicitors fees and additional paperwork.
Executry administration can pose complications and legal advice is often sought. In some cases, however, a deceased person’s estate is small and simple enough to be dealt with by the executors themselves. In this case Mr Garnett decided not to instruct a solicitor.
Mr Garnett’s father’s gross estate was valued at £55,375. Caution is not required when a deceased person’s estate is less than £36,000. In this case the deceased’s gross estate was over the minimum threshold and it is frustrating that the net estate was within the threshold. Mr Garnett thought, erroneously, that the court had discretion to waive Caution in this instance.
Sheriff McCormick reaffirmed the position that Sheriff Courts do not have discretion to waive Caution for estates. Secondly, the court has power to reduce the amount for which caution is sought but this power is rarely exercised.
Finally Sheriff McCormick commented on a third point: a somewhat anomalous situation, where an executor-dative decides to seek the assistance of a solicitor for a small intestate estate. In such a case a bond of caution is required; yet a bond is not required where the application for confirmation is prepared with the assistance of the sheriff clerk.
It was noted by the sheriff that the commissary clerks receive several oral queries about the powers the courts have to waive caution. Sheriff McCormick thought it would be useful to confirm that the Sheriff Court does not have this power. A letter to the court outlining the facts of a particular case would not alter the position.
As a closing remark, these issues could have been eliminated if Mr McCormick’s father had drawn up a will, which appointed executors and directed that his estate be distributed as he intended. Preparation of a simple will could have spared his children the unnecessary delays and stress when administering his estate.