We understand that dealing with the executry process following the death of a relative or friend can seem confusing and overwhelming. In this article, we look at the stages of the executry process and how long you can expect each to take. 

Initial steps - first few weeks following a death

Firstly, the death requires to be registered. This should be done as soon as possible and must be done within the first 8 days. The funeral can then be arranged. It should be established if the deceased had a Will and who the executors are. If there is no Will an executor will need to be appointed by the court and, in most cases, you will require a Bond of Caution to administer the estate.

Identify and value the estate - within the first few months of a death, in most cases

The executors must then begin the process of dealing with all of the organisations where the deceased held assets or accounts and attempt to value these at the date of death. If inheritance tax (IHT) is payable professional valuations may be required. 

Establish the IHT position of the estate and apply for Confirmation - normally around 6 months from the date of death

Once the assets of the estate have been identified (and anything else which might affect the IHT position, such as lifetime gifts is clarified) the IHT liability can be calculated and the estate reported to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

The IHT must be paid before Confirmation (the Scottish equivalent of Probate) is obtained. Consideration requires to be given as to how the IHT liability will be paid, as the estate is frozen until Confirmation is granted.

Once any IHT is paid the executors, or their solicitor, can finalise the application for Confirmation. This takes the form of an inventory of the assets. The application must be signed and approved by the executors and submitted to the Sheriff Court along with the will, or bond of caution if there is no will. 

Ingather the estate - can take several months, depending on the complexity of the estate

When Confirmation is granted, separate certificates of confirmation are obtained for individual items of estate. These certificates are sent to the organisations where the deceased held assets to allow the executors to transfer or sell such assets. 

From the funds ingathered, the executors must pay the funeral expenses and any debts (including any income tax liabilities). Creditors of an estate have a period of up to 6 months from the date of death to make a claim. Therefore, executors should not fully distribute the estate until 6 months have passed. The executors must also settle any Legal Rights claims.

After the debts have been paid, the executors should settle any cash or specific legacies in terms of the Will. A solicitor can arrange to make payment to legatees, or for delivery of specific items and obtain receipts, if required. At the same time the executors can make interim distributions, of assets or cash, to the residuary beneficiaries.

Accounting and finalisation 

The executors will prepare an executry account. The account sets out all of the assets, funeral expenses, debts, IHT, income and/or capital gains tax and legacies of the estate. It also shows how the residue is calculated. Once the account is approved by the executors, the residue of the estate can be made over to the residuary beneficiaries of the estate. 

Specialist Executry (Probate) Solicitors, Edinburgh

Jennifer Gray is a Senior Executry Paralegal and deals with all aspects of executry administration and related tax matters. If you have any questions about this article or the issues covered here, please complete our contact form or call us on 0131 225 1200.

At Murray Beith Murray, we're more than just lawyers - we're trusted advisors. We clearly outline the executry process, providing straightforward, practical advice and assistance. Our approach to client service is friendly and responsive, and we operate with the highest standards of integrity and professional expertise.