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Changing someone’s will after they’ve died might seem like an impossible or contentious task. But with the support of a legal expert and the agreement of all the beneficiaries, it can be quite straightforward. This article offers a brief introduction to deeds of variation: what they are, how they work, and why you might want to write one. 

What is a Deed of Variation? 

A deed of variation is a legal document that beneficiaries of a will can use to change the will after the person has died. You can only make these changes if any beneficiaries of the original bill who are left worse off by the changes you propose agree. 

If the person died intestate, meaning they didn’t leave a will, their estate will be divided according to the law. However, you can still make changes in the same way as if there were a will. 

If you want to make changes to someone’s will, you have to do so within 2 years of their death. 

Reasons for Deeds of Variation 

There are a number of reasons that someone might want to change a will. Some examples on the government’s website include: 

  • Reducing the amount of inheritance tax or capital gains tax you have to pay 
  • Changing it to benefit someone who was left out of the original will 
  • Adjusting the will to reflect the beneficiaries’ individual situations. For instance, one beneficiary might be more in need than another. 
  • Moving the estate into a trust
  • Clarifying uncertainty over the will 

Requirements for a Valid Deed of Variation 

A deed of variation doesn’t need to be a formal legal document or deed. A written letter can actually suffice as long as it fulfills the following requirements:

  • You’re making the changes within 2 years of the death 
  • Everyone who ends up ‘worse off’ from the changes has signed it 
  • You clearly state what the changes are and why 
  • It includes a ‘stamp duty certificate’ if you’re trying to change the destination of stocks, shares or marketable securities 

It’s also important to note that there may be certain inheritance tax or capital gains tax considerations that might affect the validity of your deed of variation. 

How to register a Deed of Variation 

It’s advisable to consult a legal expert when drafting your deed of variation. Though this isn’t actually a legal requirement, it’s best to enlist the support of an experienced lawyer who can ensure that your deed of variation fulfills all the legal requirements. 

Our dedicated wills and probate team offers years of experience supporting clients with drafting their wills, planning for estate succession, and writing deeds of variation where appropriate. If you’re thinking about altering someone’s will or want advice on how to do so, get in touch. 

FAQs about Deeds of Variation 

How much does a deed of variation cost UK? 

Writing a deed of variation doesn’t have to cost anything. But we’d recommend consulting and working with a lawyer to ensure you’re aware of any legal or tax implications. Instructing a lawyer will involve a fee for their time. 

What is a deed of variation used for? 

A deed of variation, as we outlined above, is a document used to make alterations to a person’s will after they have died. Only beneficiaries of the will are entitled to make these kinds of changes. 

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