Scottish Government Launch Consultation On Archaic Succession Laws
Following concerns that succession laws in Scotland are overly archaic, failing to reflect modern society, the SNP government have triggered a public consultation in a bid to ensure that laws regarding succession are modernised, creating a fairer system for all.
Consultation point 4.3 focuses on the role of executors and references the case involving the Bristow and Taggart family. Following the Brutal killing of Carol Anne Taggart at the hands of her son Ross Taggart, the family have been working tirelessly to change the law that would ban a murderer from acting as executor for their victim’s estate.
Following his conviction, Taggart used his power as executor to torture the family; abusing his position by neglecting his mother’s property, preventing his sister access and generally frittering away the assets on expensive lawyer consultations and maintenance work that could be carried out by Lorraine’s husband.
In October, Lorraine was granted permission to enter her mother’s bedroom, under the supervision of Taggart’s lawyer. What she found was a horror show compared to the house proud property her mother once kept. Mice and insects had overrun the property and the general condition was deteriorating without the constant presence and upkeep of a permanent resident.
Following the new consultation process, it is hoped that the government will amend this law to prevent other families from facing such uniquely disgraceful circumstances in the future.
The Consultation on the Law of Succession, states: “4.3.2 Currie on Confirmation 37 states that “if a person who has been convicted of killing the deceased has been appointed executor-nominate, he will be entitled to act, though it will often be more appropriate for him to resign office”. By way of example the case Hunters Executors, Petitioners 38 is cited where the deceased’s husband was convicted of her murder but the husband declined the office of trustee and executor nominate.
“4.3.3 Since the Scottish Government last consulted on succession law reform, it has been made aware of a situation where a convicted murderer was named in their victim’s will as executor.. The case with the distress to the family has been well documented in the press and is also the subject of a Change.Org petition entitled ‘Remove/Prevent convicted Murderers from being Executors of the person they murdered [sic] estate’.
“4.3.4 Whilst this is an unusual occurrence the Scottish Government in response to a Parliamentary Question about the matter undertook to consult on whether or not such a person should be able to act as executor in these circumstances. Whilst it is currently possible to apply to the court to have an executor removed in certain circumstances, this could delay the winding up of an estate and has a cost. Under Scots law a murderer cannot inherit from their victims’ estate.
“4.3.5 The Scottish Government met with the family concerned in this case and they were able to describe the personal toll that the lack of closure on the matter of the will had taken on their health, wellbeing, family life and finances. They are very keen that others, in what is already an extremely tragic circumstance, should not have to undergo a similar experience. The family considered applying to the court to have the executor removed but the costs involved proved to be prohibitive. At the time of writing and some 3 years after the executor was convicted for the murder and 4 years after the murder itself, confirmation to the estate has not been completed.
“4.3.6 In practical terms and given the likely time lapse between a date of death and any conviction it may be necessary, so that confirmation is not delayed, to disqualify someone who has been charged with the murder or culpable homicide of their benefactor. Consideration could be given to the appointment of a judicial factor, on an interim business or otherwise, until such time as a conviction is confirmed.”
The consultation will also look at how an estate should be split when there is a surviving spouse and children. In particular, where a person dies intestate, a deeper consideration on how assets are divided between blood and step siblings will be placed into updated succession laws.
Kenneth Gibson, Member of Scottish Parliament, said: “Reforms should reflect 21st century Scotland and the law should be representative. The 2011 Census showed that 16 per cent of Scottish to be co-habitating couples. It is important that, if they don’t leave a will, the law of intestacy delivers fair outcomes. The Census also showed that eight per cent of married couple families and 29 per cent of cohabiting couple families to be step-families.
“It is clearly time to bring inheritance law up to speed with the needs of modern families across Scotland. I urge constituents to take this opportunity to share their opinions and experiences through participation in the Consultation on the Law of Succession by 10 May 2019.”
How important are these changes to succession with regards to modern families and the way people live in the 21st century?