Changing a Will After a Loved One has Passed Away
You may assume that if a relative made a Will their wishes cannot be changed after their death. Strictly speaking, that isn’t correct because, after the death of a loved one, you may be able to change their Will by entering into a deed of variation.
In this blog, private client solicitor, Chris Strogen looks at when you can vary a Will and the advantages of doing so.
Changing a Will after death
A Will can be changed after the death of the person who made the Will by entering into a deed of variation or a deed of family arrangement. A private client solicitor can advise you on whether you can do this and if it is a good option for you. For example, it may be inheritance tax efficient.
Who can vary a Will after death?
Whether you need the agreement of the executors and the other beneficiaries in the Will to the proposed variation of the Will depends on what you want to change. In some situations, you don’t need the agreement of anyone else and only you will need to sign the deed of variation. A private client solicitor can explain the process when they know what you want to change in the Will and why.
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Can you change the intestacy provision if the deceased did not make a Will?
If the deceased died intestate (without a Will) you can change the intestacy provisions by signing a deed of variation. Who needs to sign the deed depends on the nature of the variation.
A deed of variation can be particularly helpful if the deceased was in an unmarried relationship. Under intestacy rules his or her partner will not inherit. Instead, the deceased’s parents receive a share of the estate or more distant relatives. In some families, the family may want to change this so the deceased’s unmarried partner receives all or a share of the estate.
When can you sign a deed of variation?
The rules say that the deed must be signed within two years of the date of death. If you are contemplating making changes to the Will of a family member or friend it is best to speak to a private client solicitor about the proposed changes as soon as you can do so.
The benefits of a deed of variation
There are many reasons why a deed of variation might be a good idea, including:
- The Will has left out a family member by mistake. For example, by naming 2 of 3 children in the Will as the third child was born after the Will was signed. The testator should have either changed their Will on the birth of the third child or preferably (to avoid the issue in the first place) left the estate to any children alive at the date of the testator’s death and if more than one in equal shares
- The Will is a DIY Will and is not inheritance tax efficient. For example, if the husband had left the estate to his wife, then the spouse exemption would apply, and no inheritance tax would be payable on the death of the first spouse. With a deed of variation giving the estate to the wife, she can then give money to the children. Provided she survives for at least 7 years the gift is IHT free
- There is a Will dispute and the Will is being challenged or a claimant is saying that intestacy rules do not provide them with reasonable financial provision. If it is accepted that the claimant is likely to receive a share of the estate if their claim goes to court it may be sensible to vary the Will. For example, if a couple were in an unmarried relationship for 20 years but the deceased never got around to changing the Will that he made 30 years ago
In an ideal world, people would ensure that their Will is reviewed and up-to-date, and tax efficient before they pass. However, family, work, and other commitments can all get in the way of estate planning. That’s why a deed of variation may be the solution to your situation.