Succession Law Changes
Succession law in Scotland is changing. On the 29th of January 2016, the Scottish Parliament passed the Succession (Scotland) Bill in an attempt to modernise the law in this area, marking the beginning of important and widespread reforms. Such developments have been much sought after by the legal profession, with the current law – the Succession (Scotland) Act 1964 – being seen as relatively outdated. Based on consultations by the Scottish Government, the changes which the new bill introduces have been designed to make the law “fairer, clearer and more consistent”. This is the first part of a two stage development which is set to take place.
One of the most significant and widely anticipated changes which this bill introduces is an end to the ability to inherit from the estate of an ex-spouse. Until now, divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership has not had any effect on a prior existing will. This meant that an ex-spouse would still be entitled to inherit from their former partner’s estate unless specifically removed from their will. These new changes will now revoke the rights of an ex-spouse at the end of the relationship. This also applies where the ex-spouse has been appointed as a trustee or executor under the will. In any of these events, the ex-spouse will now be treated as having pre-deceased the person who has made the will (the testator).
The new bill also narrows the current law surrounding the circumstances where a beneficiary under the will pre-deceases the testator. Under the new bill, where a testator has left a legacy (a gift left through the will) to a direct descendant (i.e. their child or grandchild) who then dies before receiving that legacy, it will automatically be assumed that the intention was for the legacy to be given to the children of that direct descendant. Such an automatic entitlement also used to apply to nieces and nephews, however the bill will now restrict this to children and grandchildren only.
Another significant change comes in the form of rectification of wills. The bill introduces provision to allow the court to make changes to a will where it can be shown that the will which is in place does not reflect the true intentions of the deceased.
All of these changes are expected to come into effect in March 2016, to be followed shortly after by further reforms. The second stage of the development process is expected to affect the legal rights of a spouse or child to the deceased’s estate by removing the distinction between heritable and moveable property. Further changes are also expected to be made in the areas of intestacy and cohabitation. No draft bill has yet been submitted for this part, but it should be noted that further changes are expected in the near future.
Author: Lauren Davidson, LLB Hons, Currently studying for Diploma In Legal Practice
The views stated are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm.View all →