Bereaved families may find themselves “locked out” of a loved one’s estate “for months on end” as a result of the coronavirus crisis, a Scottish law firm has warned.

Aberdein Considine suggests that, with the Scottish legal system currently focused on “essential” cases, sheriff courts will in due course find themselves facing a considerable backlog leading to the delay of a “substantial” number of confirmation (probate) cases.

James MacKinnon, a partner at the firm, told The Journal of the Law Society of Scotland: “The passing of a loved one is upsetting for those left behind and the thought of having to deal with the often complex process of winding up the estate can be daunting. This is being made ever-more complex by the current restrictions in place to shield people from Covid-19.

“We have been inundated with work since the outbreak, particularly around matters involving wills, powers of attorney, and estate administration.”

Mackinnon advised families to continue with the legal process surrounding estate administration to help minimise future delays as far as possible.

He added: “The backlog is already substantial and, sadly, will continue to grow as the tragic Covid-19 death toll increases. The delays could be even longer for people who died without leaving a will.

“We understand that confirmation cases will be heard in the order that they are filed, once courts re-open to non-essential business. This means that the earlier a confirmation application is submitted, the more likely it is to be granted in a reasonable timeframe.”