Criminal Defence

Woodward Lawson are able to provide a high level of personal guidance throughout all forms of criminal prosecution in Aberdeen and elsewhere in Scotland. We provide expert representation in all types of criminal cases in the High Court, Sheriff or Justice of the Peace Courts.

Civil Litigation

Woodward Lawson represent clients in a broad range of civil court cases, both in the Sheriff Court and Court of Session.

Contractual Disputes

Contracts form the backbone of daily life in any business. Occasionally, difficulties arise in relation to what was actually agreed and disputes occur if one party does not do what the other expects them to do.

Guardianship & Incapacity

We have significant experience in relation to Guardianship applications both from the perspective of raising applications for Guardianship and also in opposing such applications in disputed cases. Ian Woodward-Nutt also regularly acts as a Court appointed reporter in relation to Guardianship cases.

Building Disputes

Whether you are a builder seeking payment for works which have run into difficulties or a client receiving possible defective building work, it is best to seek our advice at the earliest possible juncture.

Road Traffic Offences

Road Traffic Law forms part of the Criminal Law that is a broad and technically complicated area. If you have been charged by the police or have received papers intimating a criminal prosecution for an alleged road traffic offence, it is important to take advice from an experienced criminal defence lawyer at the earliest opportunity.

Debt Collection

Every business encounters debtors from time to time and this can seriously affect important cash flow. At Woodward Lawson, we provide a robust one-stop service from seven day letters to pursuing court action in the Sheriff Court and Court of Session.

Property & Boundary Disputes

Few aspects of life can cause such concern as a neighbour asserting rights over your land or preventing you from doing something on their land that you thought you had a right to do.

Divorce, Separation & Cohabitation

The breakdown of a relationship, be it marriage, civil partnership or cohabitation, leads to all manner of financial worries and practical difficulties as the inevitable change in your personal circumstances occurs. This is especially so if there are major assets which require to be divided.

Road Haulage Representation

Woodward Lawson are pleased to offer representation in all matters concerning road haulage and transport law.

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News & Comment

Cohabitation and Succession Rights – Part 1

15 August 2021

The present law in the area of cohabitation is governed by the Succession (Scotland) Act, 1964 in conjunction with section 29 of the relatively recent Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006. As we turn into 2016, this would appear to be a good point to review a law which has been with us for a decade.

Since the 2006 Act came into force, there has been comparatively little in the way of caselaw to flesh out how the provisions should be applied in practice. Section 29 of the Act introduced, for the first time, the concept of cohabitees obtaining access to succession protection previously only available to surviving spouses and children. However, it is not an automatic right and it is mandatory that any claim is raised in the court system within 6 months of date of death. That fixed time limit is unhelpful. It can frequently be the case in executries that the amount of the estate and its heritable and (particularly) moveable components may not have been correctly determined within that period of time. Yet, that is precisely the kind of information which is required by a cohabitee in order to know whether or not it is worthwhile incurring the legal cost to raise the claim in the first instance.

Even if the court is persuaded that a cohabitee has a legitimate claim in principle, it can only make the order for payment out of the deceased’s net intestate estate. Two matters arise from this.

Firstly, the provisions only apply to a surviving cohabitee if the deceased died without a will. If the deceased made a will prior to the cohabitation, then the cohabitee has no claim under the 2006 Act. Clearly, if the deceased made a will during the cohabitation to include their cohabitee as one of their beneficiaries, then the cohabitee still cannot rely on the 2006 Act but will nonetheless get some bequest.

Secondly, there is a narrow definition of the term “net intestate estate” contained within section 29 (10). The definition states that “net intestate estate” means only so much of the estate as remains after the satisfaction of tax, debts and the legal rights and prior rights of any surviving spouse or civil partner. The legal and prior rights of any surviving spouse or civil partner can be substantial. Presently, the surviving spouse is entitled to the dwelling house in which the surviving spouse or civil partner lives up to the value of £473,000. They are also entitled to furniture and furnishings in that dwelling house up to a maximum of £29,000. Finally, they are entitled to a cash sum of £50,000 if the deceased had surviving children or £89,000 if the deceased did not have children. That is a potential sum of up to £552,000. In most cases, this is likely to exhaust the deceased cohabitee’s “net intestate estate” if the deceased did not divorce or enter into a formal separation agreement with their estranged spouse or civil partner before or during the period of cohabitation so as to mitigate the effect of the legislation.

The complexities of the law inevitably mean that early legal advice is necessary if you find yourself in this situation especially bearing in mind the 6 month cut-off point. It is best not to leave it to the last minute or you might lose the chance of making a claim.