Scottish Succession Law has remained largely the same for the last 50 years, but following a recent Scottish Law Commission consultation this is now about to change. Solicitor Doran Mitchell explains what this could mean for you and your family.
As you may have seen in the media recently, there is a drive to modernise Scottish Succession Law. Indeed, some of the changes put forward in the Succession (Scotland) Bill on 17 June, 2015 are to be welcomed - for example, proposals to amend the law to ensure any legacy left to a spouse will be automatically revoked by divorce.
Others, however, could potentially have a detrimental effect on how your estate is distributed, regardless of what is set out in your Will.
The principle of Legal Rights - the idea that every child and spouse has a claim on the deceased’s estate, despite the terms of any Will - has been enshrined in Scots Law for years. Such a claim can be applied only to the deceased’s movable property – generally defined as everything excluding ‘bricks and mortar’ – but does not currently extend to heritable property (buildings and land).
The Scottish Law Commission has found that there is no justification for continuing to make such a distinction and therefore proposes to remove it.
By removing this differentiation, Legal Rights would be calculated with reference to both the deceased’s heritable and moveable estate. This is intended to help promote fairness and prevent disinheritance. However, in certain instances it may mean that farms and country estates will be broken up or sold in order to settle the claims.
Furthermore, that black sheep who you thought would only receive a small amount of your estate may now be in line to inherit a sizeable proportion.
Whilst these changes will not happen overnight, they may significantly affect your planning for the future. It would be wise to speak to an advisor early to find out how this proposal will impact you and to adapt your plans for succession if necessary.
For more information on Wills, succession planning or further updates to the law, contact Doran via email or call 0131 624 6821.