In this article:

There are a few things to think about if someone dies without a will. We’ll go through what this means and how things work in this article, so you know how to deal with the situation if you have to.

This article covers the situation if someone dies without a will in Scotland.

What’s the legal term for dying without a will?

The legal term for dying without a will is ‘dying intestate.’ The person who has died without a will is called an ‘intestate person,’ or someone who ‘died intestate.’

Where can the Scottish rules about dying without a will be found?

The rules can be found in the Succession (Scotland) Act 1964. You can see the Act on the website by clicking here.

What steps do you need to take to be allowed to sort out the estate?

  • Appointing an executor: When someone in Scotland dies without a will, you’ll have to petition the court to have an executor appointed. The executor is the person who’ll be responsible for sorting out the estate of the person who died. ‘The estate’ is the technical name for a person’s property, possessions and money.
  • Getting a bond of caution granted: This is a type of insurance policy that will be required unless a surviving married or civil partner will inherit the intestate person’s estate in full or if their estate is worth less than £36,000.

Who can inherit what if there’s no will?

Only certain people can inherit when a person dies intestate. In Scotland, there’re rules to follow when working out who gets what. This depends on the circumstances of the person who’s died.

The rules are complicated around inheritance in Scotland. You can find a very useful diagram showing who inherits what if someone dies without a will in Scotland on The Gazette’s website here.

Different types of rights

Under the Scottish intestacy rules, there are different types of rights that certain beneficiaries have. Beneficiaries are the people who will benefit from the estate of the person who’s died.

The rights are called ‘prior rights’ and ‘legal rights.’ Once these have been satisfied, the executor must distribute the rest of the estate according to the rules.

You can read more about each type of rights by clicking the links below, which will take you to the relevant page on the website:

Important things to know about the Scottish rules on dying intestate:

  • Step-children and foster children aren’t automatically entitled to inherit.
  • If the person who died leaves behind a surviving partner who’s not a married or civil partner, the surviving partner can’t inherit. A claim will have to be made to the courts.
  • Half-siblings only receive a share of the estate if there are no siblings who share both parents with the person who died, and no descendants of those siblings.

Can a solicitor help me with sorting out the estate of someone who’s died without a will?

Yes. It’s a good idea to contact a solicitor if you need help with sorting out the estate of someone who’s died without a will. You can find a solicitor who specialises in this area by looking on The Law Society of Scotland’s website here.

What about inheritance tax?

You’ll need to check whether there’s any inheritance tax to pay on the estate of the person who’s died in Scotland. Learn more about inheritance tax.

Photo by Álvaro Serrano on Unsplash