Wills and succession have been in the news lately, with the Scottish Government’s announcement that it intends to consult on the recommendations put forward by the Scottish Law Commission for reform of the law of succession.
The recommendations, accompanied by a draft Succession (Scotland) Bill, have two main aims – to simplify the existing law, and to reflect the changing nature of family structures in Scotland, such as the popularity of cohabitation, the growing number of step-families, and the fact that we are living longer. One proposal which could significantly affect landowning clients is the proposal for legal rights to apply to heritable property.
Despite these intentions, perhaps inevitably, the proposals remain complex. Furthermore, the law will never be able to account for all the possible combinations of both family and financial circumstances in a way which satisfies every individual’s wishes. Often, too, the assumptions we make about what will happen at law if there is no Will turn out to be inaccurate, with loved ones losing out as a result. Even with the reforms, therefore, the only way to be certain that your property is distributed the way you want it to be on your death remains to take advice and draw up a Will, including tax planning arrangements as appropriate.
What will happen next with these proposals? They might never become law, and even if some, or all, of them do, it is likely to be some time before legislation is proposed to Parliament. The revival of these debates once again highlights the advantages of making a Will – it remains the only way to be sure that your wishes will be carried out.