What to do after a death in Scotland - practical advice for times of bereavement: revised 11th edition 2016 (web only)

General information on what to do after someone dies in Scotland and about succession and inheritance law. See https://www.mygov.scot/bereavement-benefits/ for the latest information about benefits.

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22. The three principles

The application of the order of succession above is subject to three general principles:

1. There is no preference in relation to gender or age.

For instance, brothers do not rank before sisters, or elder brothers before younger. In the case of things such as titles or coats of arms, there may be some preference for male people or older people to succeed first.

2. There is representation in all branches of succession.

This principle covers cases where someone with children dies before being able to inherit. For instance, person A has two children B and C, and B has two children X and Y. B dies, and a year later A dies. A's grandchildren, X and Y, will inherit the share of A's intestate estate that B would have inherited.

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3. Siblings have preference over half siblings.

A sibling (brother or sister) and a half sibling of the person who died can both inherit. However, if there are any full siblings, the full siblings will inherit and the half siblings will not.

A half sibling is someone who shared only one parent with the person who died. A full sibling is someone who shared both parents with the dead person. If there are no full siblings, half siblings can inherit from the intestate estate.

For instance, if Mr C dies, leaving his sister and half brother, only his sister would inherit from his intestate estate (see diagram below).

The same principle applies to ancestors of the person who died. This means that, for instance, full siblings of grandparents of the person who died will inherit instead of half siblings of grandparents.

This principle is also subject to the principle of representation outlined above.

A descendant of a full sibling will inherit before a half sibling or a descendant of a half sibling. For example, a niece whose late mother was the full sibling of the person who died would inherit instead of the dead person's half brother.

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