Deed of variation

A Deed of Variation, also known as a ‘deed of family arrangements’ is a document that allows a beneficiary to change a Will after somebody’s death. With a Deed of Variation, a beneficiary can only make changes to their own share of an estate. If you are a beneficiary considering changing your inheritance, our wills and probate solicitors can advise you.

Why might you need a Deed of Variation?

You may need a Deed of Variation (or a ‘deed of family arrangements’) if circumstances have changed since a Will was made.

Perhaps you would like to:

  • Share your entitlement with another person not named in the Will. For example, a child who was born after the Will was made.
  • Share the estate more fairly amongst beneficiaries.
  • Minimise Inheritance Tax (more below).

There are other reasons why you may wish to have a Deed of Variation. All family circumstances are different. Sometimes all the beneficiaries of a Will decide together that an estate should be distributed in another way. In this case multiple deeds will be created.

If somebody has died without making a Will you can use a Deed of Variation to share their estate more fairly. When a person dies without a Will, they are said to have died intestate. The rules of intestacy are very specific and not always beneficial to family members.

Who can apply for a Deed of Variation?

Only the beneficiaries of a Will can apply for a Deed of Variation.

How do you change a Will after death?

A Deed of Variation only allows a beneficiary to change their own entitlement in a Will. If the changes will affect other beneficiaries, then their permission is required.

Changes need to be made no more than 2 years after the person who made the Will has died.

If the Deed of Variation means there is more Inheritance Tax to pay, a copy must be sent to HMRC within 6 months.

What cannot be changed in a Deed of Variation?

A beneficiary cannot rewrite somebody’s Will after they have died by making changes to other people’s inheritance or changing the executors named in the Will.

The only exception is when a Will is proved to be invalid. There are specific grounds for contesting a Will, and our solicitors can advise you.

How can a Deed of Variation minimise Inheritance Tax?

A Deed of Variation can be used to reduce both Inheritance Tax and Capital Gains Tax. This can be done by sharing the estate in a more tax-efficient way by:

  • Sharing large sums of money and assets more evenly.
  • Making a gift to charity.
  • Passing a share straight onto children.
  • Considering the reliefs and exemptions that are available and making the best use of them.

Our solicitors can advise you on the best way to reduce tax so your loved one’s receive the maximum inheritance.

Have a question or need some help?

Why use a solicitor to make a Deed of Variation?

You can create a Deed of Variation without a solicitor. However, it is best to seek legal advice. If you make a mistake you may pay extra tax and there might be unforeseen legal implications.

Our solicitors are experienced in helping people to change a Will after death. We can advise you on all your options so you can decide the best course of action for your family.

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