Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Changing a Will After a Persons Death

A deceased persons will can be changed within two years of their death.

In order to make the change a "deed of variation" or "deed of family arrangement" needs to be drafted, agreed to and signed by all the beneficiaries of the deceased original will that would be effected.

Why might you want to change a will?

One of the key reasons people requests deeds of variation is to reduce potential inheritance tax bills. We often see requests for gifts left to the deceased spouse or children varied to go direct to grandchildren. This is often done because the spouse or children already have enough money and they know by accepting the gift they will only be increasing their potential inheritance tax liability. So by diverting the gift they maybe able to reduce or even eliminate any inheritance tax burden.

Another reason we sometimes get requests to change a deceased persons will is when the remaining family members believe a particular family member or friend has been excluded or forgotten about when the deceased made the original will. In many cases this has caused family feuds and by changing the will with the agreement of the original beneficiaries this situation can be eased.

We are often asked if a deed of variation can be used to protect all of part of an estate from local authority long term care assessment. The short answer to this is no. If this is the only reason the change is being made it is highly unlikely to be accepted by a local authority then looking at care cost. If the change is being made for other reasons like inheritance tax reduction the local authority may accept the change, but there seems little if any case law to test this scenario at the current time.

Can a will be change at any time after the death?

The beneficiaries of a gift or legacy have up to two years to vary the gift, after this time no changes can be made. This means the deed of variation has to be drafted, agreed to be and signed by all beneficiaries effected by the change before the second anniversary of the persons death.

Can a change be made if no will was left?

If some dies without leaving a will they are deemed to have died intestate and the intestacy laws prevail. It is still possible to draw up a deed of variation in these circumstances.

Can a gift left to a person be transferred in a trust

As long as it is within two years of the death and the person who the original gift or legacy was left to is in agreement the gift or legacy could be redirected in to a trust.


Changing a persons will is possible within two years of their death if any beneficiary of a gift or legacy agrees with the change.

The process is done via a deed of variation, this can usually be drafting in a few days if all the relevant information is presented.

Adrian Tatum, Managing Director,

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