Under the present Succession (Scotland) Act 1964, if a homeowner dies intestate then a property with a value that exceeds £300,000 could end up having to be sold – the spouse or civil partner of a person who dies without leaving a will has a “prior right” to receive the shared home below this ceiling.
However, over £300,000, the property may be subject to rival claims from the deceased’s children or siblings.
The Scottish Government intends raising the threshold to £473,000 to keep pace with increased property values since the previous threshold increase in 2005.
Roseanna Cunningham said large majority of people of Scots would be able to stay in the family home – fewer people in Scotland will be forced to sell their homes should their wife, husband or civil partner die intestate.
UK-wide figures estimate one in three people dies intestate and half of all people over the age of 45 have not yet made a will.
Minister for community safety and legal affairs Roseanna Cunningham said: “These small but much-needed changes will offer protection for those who have lost a loved one and are left to deal with the consequences when no will has been made.
“The increase in limits to £473,000 means that most people in Scotland will be able to stay in the family home they shared with their spouse or civil partner, sparing them the distress and disruption of leaving their homes at such a difficult time.”
Another positive change to inheritance law will allow small estates to be processed without surviving family members having to pay high legal costs. When an estate is worth less than £36,000 – up from the current figure of £30,000 – a sheriff clerk will be able to prepare an inventory and declaration to finalise the property.
Ms Cunningham said: “The increase to £36,000 for small estates will mean a greater number of estates will be able to be finalised without the need for extra legal expenses and should benefit less well-off families.”
These changes to the Succession (Scotland) Act 1964 are due to come into force in February following a Scottish Government consultation.
Lindsay Scott, communications and campaigns manager for Age Scotland, said: “We think it is a good thing as it will mean more people will be able to stay in property after their partner has died.
“However, what this should really highlight is the importance of making a will.
“The fact remains that there are too many people dying intestate. These disputes would not arise if a will had been made.”