Dearest Gentle Reader,

Like this author, you may have spent the weekend enjoying the latest installment of Netflix's regency-inspired series, Bridgerton. Unlike this author, you may not have been taking notes on its legal subplots…

Succession is a key theme of Bridgerton. With each series, its colourful cast of characters make their debuts in society (The Ton) to find themselves a suitable match, marry and bring forth heirs to their titles and fortunes.

In Season Three, we meet a new character – the anonymous "Solicitor" – instructed by the Crown to make sure that society's peerages are passing to the right men. This regency era lawyer is part heir hunter, part private eye. At first, we see him meeting with the Mondrich Family, sharing the news that following the death of a distant aunt, their nine-year-old son is to become the latest Lord Kent. He then moves on to the Featherington Family. Portia Featherington, the matriarch of the family has managed to maintain her family's status in society thanks to a combination of charm, party-planning, and embezzlement. Her most recent misconduct being the preparation of a fraudulent legal document, purportedly prepared by the latest Lord Featherington, instructing that the family peerage passes via the female line to the first-born son of her own daughters, rather than by succession law, to a distant cousin.

Without sharing any spoilers, what this story line does highlight, is what can happen if you do not make appropriate, legal arrangements for the succession to your estate. It shows what happens if you do not put suitable measures in place by way of a will, that the management and the passing of your assets, will be decided by forces beyond your or your family's control.

In Scotland, if a person dies without a will, their estate is regarded as intestate. The people entitled to administer an estate (executors) and those entitled to benefit from it (beneficiaries) are determined by the Succession (Scotland) Act 1964. While the order of succession contained in the Act is not quite as archaic as the primogeniture of the Bridgerton universe, it is widely regarded as outdated, in that it makes little provision for modern families, blended families, or families that simply don't get on.

Intestate estates are very common, and the way an estate is divided often comes as a surprise to families. To safeguard against such surprises, the most important step you can take is to make a will. And to make sure that your legal documents are watertight (unlike the dubious Featherington document) the best approach is to take advice from an experienced private client solicitor.


Emma Paul

Senior Solicitor