On the 25th of January, you will find many Scots celebrating Burns Night to mark the birth of Scotland's National Bard, Robert Burns.

Burns' "Auld Lang Syne" is a well-known song in the English language, often played when bringing in the new year. No matter where you are in the world, it is likely you have heard it or even sung along at least a few times!

Burns Night is not just celebrated by those in Scotland - it is recognised and enjoyed globally. Interestingly, at one point, Burns considered moving to Jamaica. Did he consider what would happen to his assets in Scotland if he did move abroad? We'll never know!

On the topic of considering assets, in succession planning there are important factors to consider if you are thinking of moving abroad, or you live abroad, and own assets in Scotland such as property.


A person's domicile (where they consider home) is important as it is the key connecting factor in relation to which law applies to the succession of their estate after their death.

In Scots law, a person acquires a "domicile of origin" at birth. This is acquired from their parents or according to the circumstances of their birth. However, this can be replaced by a "domicile of choice" which is acquired when an individual lives in another country other than their country of birth. For example, if you move to Scotland and intend on remaining in the country, it may be the case that you acquire a new domicile of choice in Scotland. This means that Scottish law would apply in terms of the succession of your estate.

Whilst this sounds relatively straight forward, this is just the position under Scots law. Other countries have different rules and these can have different implications for how assets are distributed after a person's death.

Legal rights

Another factor to consider is the Scots law concept of 'legal rights'. Legal rights automatically entitle a spouse or children to up to half of the deceased's moveable estate, regardless of the terms of their will and extend to the worldwide estate of the deceased. A moveable estate generally consists of any estate that is not classed as heritable property, such as bank accounts, personal belongings, cars etc.

Legal rights only apply where someone was domiciled in Scotland when they died and prevent children and spouses from being disinherited.

How can we help?

If you are thinking about moving abroad, or you do live in another country, it is sensible to think about succession planning and whether the succession planning you have in place takes account of your Scottish and non-Scottish connections.

Brodies' Personal and Family team have team members who are qualified as lawyers in a number of cross-border jurisdictions. We have extensive experience of acting for clients with assets, business interests, and families in countries right around the world, from Europe to South Africa; the United States to Singapore; and many more. If you would like to discuss your own circumstances please do get in touch, we would be delighted to assist you.


Stewart Gibson

Senior Associate