Irregular Succession

Irregular Succession
Irregular Succession
Quick Summary of Irregular Succession

Irregular succession refers to a unique method of property or rights inheritance that deviates from the conventional approach. Typically, upon someone’s death, their property and rights are transferred to their family members in accordance with the law. However, in certain cases, specific laws grant certain individuals or the government the authority to inherit instead. This is known as irregular succession, distinct from regular succession where property and rights are inherited by family members as per legal provisions.

What is the dictionary definition of Irregular Succession?
Dictionary Definition of Irregular Succession

Irregular succession refers to a form of succession where specific individuals or the state are favoured by special laws, instead of the usual heirs according to the laws of descent. This implies that the assets or rights of a deceased person can be transferred to someone who is not a direct heir but is favoured by the law. For instance, in certain situations, the state may inherit the assets of an individual who passes away without any known heirs, which is known as a vacant succession. Another example is when a person leaves a will that designates a particular individual to inherit their assets, rather than their closest relatives. These examples demonstrate how irregular succession can lead to the transfer of assets or rights to individuals who may not have been anticipated to inherit them under normal circumstances.

Full Definition Of Irregular Succession

Irregular succession refers to the unconventional or non-standard processes by which a person assumes a position, role, or inheritance, contrary to established legal protocols. This can occur in various contexts, such as the inheritance of property, the ascension to titles, or the assumption of public or corporate offices. In the UK, irregular succession can arise due to a variety of factors including intestacy (dying without a will), contested wills, or the application of specific legal doctrines that deviate from typical succession norms. This legal overview will examine the concept of irregular succession, its implications, relevant legislation, and notable case law within the British legal framework.

Contexts of Irregular Succession

Irregular succession primarily occurs in three main contexts: hereditary succession, corporate succession, and public office succession. Each of these areas has its own unique set of rules and potential for irregularities.

  1. Hereditary Succession: This involves the transfer of property, titles, or estates upon the death of an individual. Irregularities can occur due to the absence of a valid will (intestacy), disputes over the legitimacy of heirs, or challenges to the validity of a will.
  2. Corporate Succession: This pertains to the appointment of individuals to positions within a company or organisation. Irregular succession may arise from disputes over the legitimacy of appointments, breaches of corporate governance protocols, or fraudulent practices.
  3. Public Office Succession: This involves the assumption of roles within governmental or public bodies. Irregularities can occur due to electoral fraud, improper appointments, or breaches of statutory requirements.

Hereditary Succession and Intestacy

In the context of hereditary succession, the laws of intestacy govern the distribution of a deceased person’s estate when they die without a valid will. The Administration of Estates Act 1925, as amended by the Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act 2014, provides the legal framework for intestate succession in England and Wales. These statutes outline a hierarchy of beneficiaries, starting with the spouse or civil partner, followed by children, and other relatives.

Key Issues in Irregular Hereditary Succession:

  • Disputes Over Heirship: Irregular succession can occur when there are disputes regarding the legitimacy of potential heirs. For instance, challenges may arise concerning the validity of a marriage or the legitimacy of offspring.
  • Contested Wills: When a will is contested, the probate court must determine its validity. Grounds for contesting a will include lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence, or improper execution. If a will is invalidated, the estate may be distributed according to intestacy rules, leading to irregular succession outcomes.
  • Partial Intestacy: If a will does not dispose of all the deceased’s assets, those undisposed assets will be distributed according to intestacy laws, potentially leading to unexpected and irregular outcomes.

Corporate Succession

Corporate succession involves the transition of leadership and key roles within companies. The Companies Act 2006 and the Corporate Governance Code provide the legal framework and best practices for corporate succession in the UK. Irregularities in corporate succession can have significant implications for the governance and operations of a company.

Key Issues in Irregular Corporate Succession:

  • Improper Appointments: Irregularities can occur when appointments to key positions are made without following due process. This might involve bypassing the board of directors, violating company bylaws, or engaging in nepotism or cronyism.
  • Disputes Among Shareholders: Conflicts among shareholders regarding the appointment of directors or executives can lead to irregular succession. These disputes often require resolution through legal or arbitration processes.
  • Fraudulent Practices: Irregular corporate succession can also arise from fraudulent activities such as falsifying records, forging documents, or manipulating elections to secure positions.

Public Office Succession

The assumption of public offices is governed by various electoral laws and regulations. The Representation of the People Act 1983 and the Local Government Act 1972, among others, set out the procedures for elections and appointments to public office in the UK.

Key Issues in Irregular Public Office Succession:

  • Electoral Fraud: Irregular succession in public office can occur due to electoral fraud, including vote rigging, bribery, or coercion. Such practices undermine the integrity of democratic processes and can lead to legal challenges and annulment of elections.
  • Improper Appointments: Irregularities can also arise from improper appointments, where individuals assume office without meeting statutory requirements or through unlawful procedures.
  • Disqualification of Candidates: Legal challenges to the eligibility of candidates, such as those based on residency, criminal convictions, or conflicts of interest, can lead to irregular succession outcomes.

Legislative Framework

The legislative framework governing succession in the UK is extensive and varies depending on the context. Below are some key statutes and legal principles relevant to irregular succession:

  1. Administration of Estates Act 1925: This Act governs the distribution of estates in cases of intestacy, providing a clear hierarchy of beneficiaries.
  2. Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975: This Act allows certain individuals to make claims against an estate if they believe they have not been adequately provided for, potentially leading to irregular succession outcomes.
  3. Companies Act 2006: This Act sets out the legal requirements for corporate governance, including the appointment and removal of directors, thereby addressing issues related to corporate succession.
  4. Representation of the People Act 1983: This Act regulates the conduct of elections in the UK, addressing issues such as voter eligibility, electoral fraud, and the validity of election results.
  5. Local Government Act 1972: This Act governs the structure and functions of local government, including the procedures for the appointment and election of local government officials.

Case Law

The interpretation and application of laws related to irregular succession are often guided by case law. Below are notable cases that have shaped the legal landscape of irregular succession in the UK:

  1. Ilott v. The Blue Cross and Others [2017] UKSC 17: This case involved a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. The Supreme Court’s decision highlighted the importance of testamentary freedom while balancing the need to provide for dependents, illustrating the complexities of irregular succession in hereditary contexts.
  2. Re B (Children) (Care Proceedings: Surrogacy) [2019] EWCA Civ 2025: This case dealt with the legal recognition of parentage in a surrogacy arrangement, touching upon issues of legitimacy and irregular succession in family law.
  3. Re D (A Child) [2016] EWCA Civ 1130: This case involved the inheritance rights of a child born out of wedlock, highlighting the evolving legal approach to irregular succession concerning the legitimacy of heirs.
  4. Re Snowden [1970] Ch 700: This case addressed the validity of secret trusts and the potential for irregular succession through informal testamentary arrangements.
  5. Smith v. Croft (No 2) [1988] Ch 114: In the context of corporate succession, this case examined the rights of minority shareholders to challenge decisions made by the majority, illustrating how disputes can lead to irregular succession outcomes.

Implications and Challenges

Irregular succession poses several challenges and has significant implications for individuals, families, businesses, and public institutions. Some of the key implications include:

  • Legal Uncertainty: Irregular succession can create legal uncertainty, leading to prolonged disputes and litigation. This can delay the resolution of succession issues and increase legal costs for the parties involved.
  • Family Conflicts: In hereditary succession, irregularities can exacerbate family conflicts, particularly when there are disputes over the validity of wills or the legitimacy of heirs. This can strain familial relationships and lead to emotional distress.
  • Corporate Instability: In corporate succession, irregularities can undermine the stability and governance of a company. Improper appointments or disputes among shareholders can disrupt business operations and affect investor confidence.
  • Erosion of Public Trust: In the context of public office succession, irregularities such as electoral fraud or improper appointments can erode public trust in democratic institutions and governance processes.

Addressing Irregular Succession

To mitigate the risks and challenges associated with irregular succession, several measures can be taken:

  1. Clear Legal Frameworks: Ensuring that the legal frameworks governing succession are clear, comprehensive, and regularly updated can help prevent irregularities. This includes robust laws on intestacy, corporate governance, and electoral processes.
  2. Effective Dispute Resolution Mechanisms: Establishing effective mechanisms for resolving disputes related to succession can help address irregularities promptly and fairly. This may involve specialized courts, arbitration panels, or mediation services.
  3. Public Awareness and Education: Increasing public awareness and education about the legal requirements and implications of succession can help individuals and organisations navigate succession issues more effectively and avoid irregularities.
  4. Strengthening Governance and Oversight: Strengthening governance and oversight mechanisms within companies and public institutions can help prevent irregularities in corporate and public office succession. This includes enforcing strict compliance with laws and regulations and promoting transparency and accountability.


Irregular succession presents complex legal challenges across various contexts, including hereditary succession, corporate succession, and public office succession. The legal framework in the UK provides mechanisms to address these challenges, but irregularities can still arise due to disputes, improper practices, and fraudulent activities. Addressing irregular succession requires a combination of clear legal frameworks, effective dispute-resolution mechanisms, public awareness, and robust governance practices. By adopting these measures, the risks associated with irregular succession can be mitigated, ensuring a fair and orderly transition of roles, positions, and assets.

Irregular Succession FAQ'S

Irregular succession refers to the process of inheriting property or assets without following the traditional rules of succession outlined in a will or by law.

Irregular succession occurs when there is no valid will in place, or when the will is deemed invalid due to various reasons such as fraud, coercion, or a lack of mental capacity of the testator.

In irregular succession, the heirs are typically determined based on their relationship to the deceased. Spouses, children, parents, and siblings are often considered potential heirs, depending on the jurisdiction’s laws.

The distribution of property in irregular succession varies depending on the jurisdiction. In some cases, it may be divided equally among the eligible heirs, while in others, it may be distributed based on a predetermined hierarchy of relationships.

Yes, it is possible for someone to be excluded from an irregular succession. For example, if a child has been legally disowned or if a spouse has been divorced and not provided for in the will, they may be excluded from inheriting.

Yes, irregular succession can be challenged in court if there are valid grounds to believe that the distribution of assets is unfair or if there are allegations of fraud, undue influence, or lack of mental capacity of the deceased.

The time limit to contest irregular succession varies depending on the jurisdiction. It is advisable to consult with a lawyer to determine the specific time frame within which you can challenge the succession.

Yes, irregular succession can be avoided by creating a valid will that clearly outlines your wishes for the distribution of your assets after your death. Regularly reviewing and updating your will can also help prevent irregular succession.

If there are no eligible heirs in irregular succession, the property may escheat to the state or government, meaning it becomes the property of the state.

In some jurisdictions, it is possible to disinherit someone in irregular succession by explicitly stating your intention to exclude them from inheriting in a valid will. However, laws regarding disinheritance vary, so it is important to consult with a lawyer to ensure compliance with local regulations.

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This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 10th June 2024.

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