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Deeds of Variation

How to change a Will after a death

Have you been left out of a Will? Do you wish to pass assets inherited from a Will onto the next generation? Perhaps you’re looking to minimise inheritance tax liability?

If you would like to change the distribution of an estate, then you’ll need to apply for a Deed of Variation.

What is a Deed of Variation?

A Deed of Variation, sometimes referred to as a family arrangement, is a legal document that allows the beneficiaries named in the Will to change the distribution of the estate.

Reasons for making a variation

There are a number of reasons a variation may be needed. Here are some example scenarios;

  • A son is the sole beneficiary for the estate of his late father. He wants to help his children with deposits to help them on the property ladder. Instead of directly gifting money to his children he could apply to have the Will varied with a deed of variation. This way this is not considered as gift and therefore does not need to consider any tax obligations under the current Inheritance tax 7-year rule.
  • A woman may have wanted to leave a gift to a close friend who had been looking after her since the passing of her husband. However, her husband’s Will was not amended prior to his death. The other beneficiaries who are the children believe this is necessary as their mother’s friend has been a great support to the family.
  • A son may have not been included in his father’s Will. However, whilst the father was ill, his son cared for him until his death. It may be that the other beneficiaries felt that the son should be entitled to something, seeing as he played a big part towards the end of his father’s life.
  • A daughter left with her mother’s estate, valued at £800,000, is subject to hefty inheritance tax charges (IHT). With the nil rate band currently at £325,000 and residence nil rate band at £175,000 any value over these amounts are subject to 40 per cent inheritance tax. The daughter will therefore wish to use a variation to a Will to reduce IHT liability by skipping a generation, or donating to charity.

Of course, there may also be financial reasons for considering a variation. If a number of years have passed since a Will was put in place, it is entirely possible that the Will may be far less tax efficient at death than it was when originally made.

What if there is no Will?

If the deceased person has died intestate (without a Will), meaning the estate will be divided by the law in a particular order according to the “Rules of Intestacy”, it is still possible to make changes to the inheritance. All the beneficiaries under the intestacy rules, though, must agree to vary the distribution of the assets.

Are there any time restrictions to apply for a Deed of Variation?

Deeds of variation can be made before or after Probate, even if the deceased’s estate has already been distributed. Any changes, however must be made within two years of the death of the deceased. And, to be valid, this paperwork must be signed by all executors and the beneficiaries who are to “lose out”.

Other requirements include:

  • All beneficiaries must be over the age of 18 or court approval will be required
  • All beneficiaries who are to lose out must agree to the changes
  • A variation is not made based on receiving payment from someone outside the estate

How do I make changes?

Speaking to an expert first will help to answer any further questions that you may have and give you guidance and reassurance on the matter. 

Our specialist Wills & Probate team in Bedfordshire are experts in this field and are happy to help you. We can also help you with making a Will, Inheritance Tax Planning, Deputyship Services, as well as many other Wills, Probate and Lasting Power of Attorney matters.

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