An estimated 60% of Scottish people who die each year have not written a Will, leaving behind a yet-to-be claimed pot of assets including cash, pensions, property and investments.
As is the case in England and Wales, the estate of a person who dies intestate (without leaving a Will) in Scotland passes to the Crown if the deceased person's next of kin is not known or no heir turns up to claim the assets.
In Scotland, the National Ultimus Haeres (ultimate heir) Unit (NUHU) under the Office of Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer (QLTR) takes charge of such estates and takes steps to confirm there is no valid Will and trace any blood relatives. The QLTR publishes a list of unclaimed assets on a regular basis and usually starts administration not earlier than 12 weeks after the estate has been reported to it by NUHU to give an entitled person some time to claim the assets.
Whilst Scots are increasingly turning to family assets to help shore up their finances in the current economic climate, tracking down the inheritance they believe is owed to them could prove a long and exhausting journey. Scottish legal experts recommend that people seeking family assets who choose to opt for a specialist search firm should do their research first. They should obtain sufficient knowledge about the company's reputation and be comfortable with their legitimacy and previous record before discussing any details about the estate.
This is one way in which the Scottish are looking to find funds. There is also an increasing tendency of mature children asserting their legal rights to family assets when one of their parents passes away but the other is still alive.
Scottish intestacy laws differ to those in England and Wales. Regardless of whether a spouse or civil partner dies with or without a Will, the children are entitled to a proportion of assets under Scottish succession laws. They have the right to claim one third of the moveable estate if there is a surviving parent and half of those assets if the deceased parent had no wife, husband or civil partner. We are seeing more and more cases of these assets being claimed even when they cause damage to the surviving parent.
The existing economic climate and the growing need for short-term cash coupled with the fact that people are unable to put money aside for retirement is probably to blame for this relatively new trend. However, while the immediate reward is there for those who make an immediate claim, it means that the inheritance they receive later on down the line will be greatly reduced.