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Murray Beith Murray is a leading Scottish private client law firm.

For over 170 years we have specialised in meeting the legal, financial and administrative needs of individuals and families, family trusts, charities and private companies.

Should you have a Scottish or an English Will? Or both?

peterWhile many people appreciate the importance of putting in place a Will, many of those who decide to take this step are unaware that the rules governing inheritance are different between Scotland and England. When putting a Will in place, it is therefore necessary to consider whether a Scottish or an English Will is appropriate. This decision can have a significant impact when distributing your estate at a later date.

What are the key differences between succession law in Scotland and England?

  1. Automatic rights for children and spouses - In Scots Law, spouses and children have an automatic entitlement to inherit part of your moveable estate (anything which isn't land and buildings), regardless of whether there is a Will. This is why in Scotland it is said that you cannot 'disinherit' your children or spouse. In England, there are not the same safeguards provided for children and spouses.
  2. Different signing requirements – In England, a Will cannot be relied upon unless you and two witnesses have signed it. In Scotland, only one witness is required, but the person making the Will must also sign on every page. It is therefore important to have an understanding of whether the English or Scottish courts will ultimately be granting authority to administer the estate, as the Will must be accepted by them and signed according to their legal requirements.
  3. Where there is no Will – The laws governing who inherits your estate where there is no Will are different in Scotland and England.

These key differences in treatment of Scottish and English succession mean that it is important to determine whether Scottish or English law will be applicable when winding up your estate, and what form your Will should take.

How do you know which laws will apply?

Determining whether Scots or English law applies when winding up your estate is not always straightforward. Much of this depends on where you are deemed to be 'domiciled' at the time of death. This will be the country that you treat as your permanent home, or live in and have a substantial connection with. However, it can be more complicated than this.

Notwithstanding a person's domicile, foreign property and land will be dealt with under the law of the country in which these assets are based. Moveable assets, on the other hand, will be dealt with by the court in which the person is domiciled in – e.g. English bank accounts can still be governed by Scottish courts where a person is Scottish domiciled.

Should I have a Scottish or an English Will?

This is a point that should be carefully considered and is best discussed with your solicitor. The answer is heavily dependent on individual circumstances, including where you will be living and where your assets are based. It is possible to put in place a Will which meets both the Scottish and English signing requirements and will, therefore, be accepted by courts in both countries. Our solicitors are experienced in Scottish and English Will writing and will be able to guide you as to what is best for your circumstances.

Specialist Wills Solicitors, Edinburgh

Our personal, attentive service coupled with sage, astute and commercially-minded guidance allows us to build long-term, ongoing relationships with our clients, helping them to protect assets throughout generations. For further information on the full range of legal services we offer, contact us on 0131 225 1200 or fill out our online enquiry form.

Peter Shand advises on succession, inheritance, and tax planning. As a dual qualified solicitor (Scotland and England/Wales), Peter is able to act for clients who have interests both North and South of the border. Find out more about Peter here.

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