Can I change the terms of the Will of someone who has died?

Changing a Will





Lucy Court | Solicitor

We often get asked the question of whether the Will of somebody can be changed once they have passed away. A Will is of course a highly confidential document and can only be altered by the person that put it in place (the ‘Testator’) during their lifetime. However, following the death of the Testator, it is possible for the beneficiaries of the estate to alter the distribution of the estate via an Instrument of Variation, such as a Deed of Variation.   

Why might someone want to change the terms of the Will of someone who has died?

There are many reasons why the beneficiaries of a Will may wish to alter entitlement to inheritance, for example to ensure that a family member who was excluded from the Will can receive a proportion of the estate. By executing a Deed of Variation, the payment will be deemed to have been made from the estate of the deceased. This is beneficial to the beneficiaries from a tax perspective as it will not be treated as a gift from their own estate. 

A Deed of Variation can also be used as a way of reducing the amount of Inheritance Tax that is payable following the death of a Testator. For example, by redirecting inheritance to a tax-exempt beneficiary, such as a Charity. 

A Deed of Variation may also be used as a means of settling a claim against the estate under the Financial (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 out of court, which could save costs that would ordinarily be spent on Litigation proceedings. 

There are however a lot of complex issues to consider when putting a Deed of Variation in place and there are conditions that must be met in order for it to be valid, such as time limits and ensuring that the document has been executed by the correct people. We would therefore always advise that you seek legal advice before attempting to put such a document in place yourself. 

How to get help?

If you require advice regarding Instruments of Variation or in respect of dealing with a deceased’s estate, please contact a member of our Wills and Probate department. 

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