Succession Law in Scotland

Written by sophie warnes
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Succession Law in Scotland
Last Will and Testament (legal pad and mechanical pencil image by alpy7 from

Succession law relates to determining who inherits the office or estate of a dead person. It is different in every country, and Scotland differs from England in these laws.

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Basic Terms

"Movable estate" is the term meaning anything outside of land or buildings that is part of the estate, for example a car or jewellery. Anything that the deceased owned that can be moved. "Inestacy" is when a person dies and there is no written will to determine who should inherit parts of their estate. This is when succession law comes in.

Prior Rights

After financial liabilities (like debt) have been met, the widow, widower or surviving civil partner is entitled to 'prior rights'. The surviving partner is entitled to the dwelling of the deceased (if the house is worth less than £300,000) or, where the house is worth more than that, they are entitled to the house up to the value of £300,000. On top of this, they are entitled to furnishings in the house up to the value of £24,000. They are also allowed the first £42,000 (if the deceased had children) or first £75,000 (if the deceased had no descendants) of the estate. Prior rights are the first claim on the estate, ahead of legal rights, when the deceased dies intestate.

Legal Rights

Surviving spouses or civil partners and children are entitled to legal rights to the movable estate of the deceased.The surviving spouse is entitled to one-third of the deceased's movable estate (if the deceased has living descendants) or one-half if they do.Similarly, the children of the deceased are collectively entitled to one-third of the movable estate (if there are no surviving spouses) or one-half, if there is still a surviving spouse. Where the children have died before their parents, and they have children themselves, their share of the movable estate is transferred to their children (ie the deceased's grandchildren) by the principle of 'representation'.

Valid Wills

Where the deceased has left a valid will, prior rights do not apply. However, legal rights still apply to spouses or children--but if they are named in the will, too, they must choose between claiming legal rights or claiming what is left to them in the will. For example, if a man dies leaving his wife a bequest of £2,000 in his will, she can choose to accept it or claim one-third or one-half of his movable estate as is her legal right.

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