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 for the latest information about benefits.

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25. Cohabitants

The Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 introduced new rights for cohabitants. A cohabitant is either one of a couple who live together (or lived together) as if they were husband and wife or civil partners.

The Act came into force as part of Scottish law on 4 May 2006. The Act allows a cohabitant to ask the court for a share from his or her cohabitant's estate. This only applies where the person who died did not make a will. If you want to apply for a share from your cohabitant's estate, you need to do so within six months of his or her death.

When the court considers giving a share of someone's estate to a former cohabitant, it will look at the couple's relationship. It will consider things such as:

  • how long the couple lived together
  • what sort of relationship they had (was it similar in nature to a marriage or a civil partnership?)
  • what sort of arrangements they made about money. For example:
    • did they have a joint bank account?
    • did they support one another financially?

This will help the court to decide whether a cohabitant is entitled to an award under these rules.

Cohabitants may have rights to a croft tenancy on intestacy under the Crofting Reform etc. Act 2007.

If you think any of this might apply to you, you should seek independent legal advice from a solicitor or a Citizens Advice Bureau. You can read more about family law on the Scottish Government's website at You can contact the Scottish Government's family law team on 0131 244 3581.


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