Inheritance laws - laws of succession as they are known in Scotland - need an overhaul to reflect modern society with its morphed and fractured families, civil partnerships and widespread cohabitation outside marriage. Today's report on the subject, from the Scottish Law Commission, attempts to strike a balance between individual free will and the duty to provide for one's dependents.

Some of these changes are long overdue. The acquisition of inheritance rights by civil partners exposes a thorny anomaly because the same rights are not extended to co-habitees, however long the relationship and however great the contribution of the surviving partner, financial or otherwise. For many women, mostly older, this has added hardship to heartbreak. Without a name in a will, the term "common-law wife" meant very little.

Under the commission's proposals, they would be entitled to a percentage of what they would have received as the deceased's spouse. Why not 100%? Because these relationships are hard to categorise and there are many staging posts between a long, loving, mutually dependent relationship and opportunistic gold-digging. Despite an attempt to introduce a simpler tripartite test for such relationships, these cases will continue to be complex and hard-fought.

The most controversial aspect of today's proposals is the way they distinguish between dependent and adult children. At the moment, a grown-up son or daughter can appear at a parent's deathbed after a long absence and make a claim on the estate. This inheritance might otherwise have gone to a worthy cause or to a loyal friend who had long supported them and nursed them through their final illness. On balance, The Herald supports the commission's inclination to restrict inheritance rights to dependent offspring. It is right that the law should expect deceased parents to contribute to the maintenance of dependent children, as is the case with absent parents. At present, a man who remarries and has children, then dies unexpectedly without changing his will, leaves his second family with nothing. Today's report also gives the deceased's surviving spouse the lion's share of the estate if he or she dies intestate. On the other hand, where there are no dependents, it is right that individuals should be able to dispose of their assets as they wish.

Current legislation does too little to protect the rights of those who are often most in need when someone dies. We live in a society that appears to be obsessed with sex but sweeps death under the carpet. Many seem unwilling to contemplate their own death and unwilling to make proper provision for loved ones, as if to do so would tempt providence. Yet many of the awkward scenarios envisaged by the new report could be avoided altogether if everyone made a will and kept it up to date. The alternative can mean that our nearest and dearest are left at the back of the queue for consideration, or out in the cold. Where there's a will, there's a way.