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  • Caitlyn Lawlor

Explained: Prior and Legal Rights in Scotland

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

There are unique features of Scottish Succession Law known as 'Prior Rights' and 'Legal Rights'. Legal Rights are used to help protect a spouse and children from being disinherited by their spouse or parent. These rights entitle a spouse and children to claim a set portion of the deceased's estate, despite whether the deceased left a Will which excludes them from receiving any inheritance.


What are Prior Rights?


Prior Rights are the highest level of rights available against a deceased person's Will- including the legal rights of children. These rights are only available to the spouse or registered civil partners of the deceased person. It is vital to note that these rights do not extend to cohabitees, there must be a registered marriage or civil partnership.


What Prior Rights am I entitled to?


Spouses/Civil Partners are entitled to the following Prior Rights:

  • The dwelling house which the surviving spouse of civil partner also resided in up to the value of £473,000.

  • Any furniture or furnishings in the dwelling house up to the value of £29,000.

  • Cash up to the value of £50,000 if there are surviving children, or up to £89,000 if there are no surviving children.

This makes the total entitlement of a surviving spouse valuing £552,000.


What are Legal Rights?


Legal Rights are the rights available to the surviving children of the deceased person and are only claimable upon the deceased persons moveable estate after any prior rights have been paid out to the surviving spouse or civil partner.


What Legal Rights am I entitled to as a surviving spouse?


If there is a surviving spouse and surviving children, legal rights state:

  • 1/3rd to be shared equally between the surviving children.

  • 1/3rd to go to the surviving spouse.

  • The final 3rd to be distributed as per the Will or per the Laws of Intestacy.


What Legal Rights am I entitled to if there is no surviving spouse?


If there is no surviving spouse, the legal rights claim is as the following:

  • 50% share of the estate which should be divided equally between any surviving children.

It is important to note that should any child decide not to claim the legal rights, those who do claim are still only entitled to their share as if the other children did claim.


If you would like more information regarding how prior and legal rights will affect your Will, get in touch with us today to set up an appointment with one of our highly trained Estate Planning Consultants.

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