Your Cart
uollb first class law notes

Law of Succession

The law of succession governs the transfer of property, assets, rights, and obligations from a deceased person (the decedent) to their heirs or beneficiaries. It sets out the legal rules and procedures for determining who is entitled to inherit the decedent's estate and how the assets are distributed.


Succession: Succession refers to the process by which a person's assets and liabilities are transferred to their heirs or beneficiaries upon their death. It encompasses the legal rules and procedures for determining who is entitled to inherit the deceased person's estate, either according to their will (testate succession) or in the absence of a will (intestate succession).


Intestate succession: When a person dies without a valid will or without disposing of all their assets through a will, their estate is distributed according to the laws of intestate succession. These laws vary by jurisdiction but generally establish a predetermined order of priority for distributing assets among surviving family members, such as spouses, children, parents, and siblings.


Testate succession: Testate succession occurs when a person dies with a valid will. The will specifies how the decedent's assets are to be distributed, designates an executor to administer the estate, and may include other provisions such as appointing guardians for minor children or creating trusts.


Wills and testamentary documents: A will, also known as a last will and testament, is a legal document that allows a person (referred to as the testator) to specify how they want their assets to be distributed after their death. It must meet certain formalities, such as being in writing, signed by the testator (the person making the will), and witnessed by competent individuals. It can also address other important matters, such as the appointment of guardians for minor children and the designation of an executor to administer the estate. Testamentary documents, including codicils and revocations, can modify or revoke a will.


Probate: Probate is the legal process through which a will is proved to be valid by a court. It involves the formal recognition of the executor named in the will and the authority granted to them to administer the estate. Probate also includes the collection, valuation, and distribution of the deceased person's assets, payment of debts and taxes, and addressing any disputes or challenges that may arise.


Personal representative: A personal representative is an executor (if named in the will) or an administrator (if there is no will or no executor is named) appointed to administer the estate and carry out the wishes of the deceased as expressed in the will or as determined by law. Their responsibilities include gathering and protecting assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries.


Estate administration: Estate administration involves the overall management and settlement of a deceased person's estate. This includes identifying and valuing assets, settling debts and taxes, handling legal and financial matters, and distributing the estate to the rightful beneficiaries. The executor or administrator is responsible for ensuring that the estate administration is conducted in accordance with applicable laws and the wishes of the deceased.


Distribution of assets: The law of succession determines the order and manner in which the decedent's assets are distributed. This includes identifying and valuing assets, settling debts and taxes, and allocating the remaining assets to the beneficiaries. The distribution can be in the form of specific bequests, monetary gifts, or percentage shares.


Rights of surviving spouses and dependents: Many jurisdictions provide certain rights and protections for surviving spouses and dependents, even in cases where the decedent's will may have excluded them or provided for them inadequately. These provisions often include the right to a statutory share or an elective share of the estate.


Challenges and disputes: Disputes and challenges may arise in the context of succession, particularly in cases involving contested wills, allegations of undue influence or lack of capacity, or disagreements among family members or interested parties. These disputes may require court intervention to resolve the issues and determine the rightful beneficiaries.


Probate court: The probate court, also known as the surrogate court or probate registry, is the judicial authority responsible for overseeing the probate process. The court reviews and approves the validity of wills, appoints executors or administrators, resolves disputes, and supervises the administration of estates. It ensures that the estate is distributed correctly and in accordance with the law.


Estate taxes: Estate taxes, also known as inheritance taxes or death duties, are taxes imposed on the transfer of assets from a deceased person to their beneficiaries. These taxes are levied on the total value of the estate and can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the value of the estate. Estate tax laws often include exemptions or thresholds for smaller estates. Estate planning may involve strategies to minimise tax liabilities, such as gifting, trusts, or charitable contributions.


Disputes and contested wills: Disputes and contested wills may arise when there are disagreements among family members or interested parties regarding the validity or interpretation of a will, the distribution of assets, or the appointment of executors. These disputes may require court intervention to resolve the issues and determine the rightful beneficiaries.


The law of succession can vary significantly between jurisdictions. Different countries or states may have different legal frameworks, rules, and procedures governing inheritance and the administration of estates.


You can learn more about this topic with our Wills and Administration of Estates notes.

Trusted by thousands of law students worldwide

Where are our students from?

Yale University

Council of Europe

Baker Mckenzie 

University of Chicago

Columbia University

New York University

University of Michigan 

INSEAD

University College London (UCL)

London School of Economics (LSE)

King’s College London (KCL)

University of London

University of Manchester

University of Zurich

University of York

Brandeis University

University of Exeter

University of Sheffield

Boston University

University of Washington

University of Leeds

University of Law

Royal Holloway, University of London 

Birkbeck, University of London

SOAS, University of London

University of Kent

University of Hull

Queen’s University Belfast

Toronto Metropolitan University

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

University of Buckingham

Your perfect companion for open-book and closed-book exams

Diagrams and Charts

Our carefully designed diagrams and charts will guide you through complex legal issues.

Clear and Succinct Definitions

Key concepts are concisely defined to help you understand legal topics quickly.

Statutory Provisions

Statutory provisions are provided side by side with legal concepts to help you swiftly locate the relevant legislation.

Case Summaries

We have summarised important cases for you so that you don't need to read long and boring cases.

Rules and Exceptions

Rules and exceptions are clearly listed so that you know when a rule applies and when it doesn't.

Terminology

Legal terms and key concepts are explained at the beginning of each chapter to help you learn efficiently.

Case Law

Case law is provided side by side with legal concepts so that you know how legal principles and precedents were established.

Law Essay Guide

You will learn essential law exam skills and essay writing techniques that are not taught in class.

Problem Question Guide

We will show you how to answer problem questions step by step to achieve first-class results.

Structured Explanations

Complex legal concepts are broken down into concise and digestible bullet point explanations.

Legal Research

You will learn legal research techniques with our study guide and become a proficient legal researcher.

Exam-focused

All essential concepts, principles, and case law are included so that you can answer exam questions quickly.