Changing a Will after death: when and why this might occur

Changing a Will after death: when and why this might occur

Changing a Will after death explained

Wills are generally thought to be set in stone. After all, they have been made by the testator according to their final wishes, and, in most cases, legally formalised and witnessed with a solicitor present. However, there are cases when it’s possible – and reasonable – for the Will to be changed after the testator has passed away. This guide outlines when and why this might happen.

Who can change a Will?

The only people that can change a Will after death are the decedent’s beneficiaries. This is done with a legal document called a deed of variation, which enables the executors to change the way that the estate is distributed, in contrast to the instructions laid out in the Will.

Why would you change a Will?

Changing a Will may seem fairly dramatic – something that’s done only by those who are looking to cut another beneficiary off or dispute the way the estate has been distributed. However, there are other reasons why requesting a deed of variation can be reasonable.

  • Adding beneficiaries

If a Will was written before the birth of another child, for example, they may not be named as a beneficiary. A deed of variation can ensure they receive a share of the estate.

  • Financial fairness

It can be reasonable to change the way in which an estate is distributed if one beneficiary is in need of more funds than the others. Perhaps one child is facing financial hardship, and the others decide to adjust the split to ensure they’re taken care of.

  • Clarity

Ambiguous wording in the Will can cause all sorts of issues, so a deed of variation can help to resolve misunderstandings. For minor amendments, a codicil could be added.

  • Tax advantages

In some cases it’s possible to reduce Inheritance Tax or Capital Gains Tax liability by implementing a deed of variation. A gift to charity, for example, could reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax due on the estate. Before committing to this option, it’s advisable to speak to a Kent accountant for probate services to ensure you’re reducing IHT liability in a legitimate and beneficial way.

How to change a Will after death

In order to request a deed of variation, you often only need to agree the changes with the Will’s executor and write a letter to HMRC. Certain things are required for the request to be legal:

  • The request must be made in writing
  • It must include a clear statement about which elements of the Will are changing, and who stands to benefit
  • It must be signed by all beneficiaries who might experience a negative impact from the changes, as well as by the beneficiary who is varying their entitlement to the estate
  • It must be witnessed by someone independent – i.e. someone who is not a party to the deed or their spouse

Where the deed of variation changes the amount of IHT due, a copy must be sent to HMRC within six months of the date of the variation.

For further advice on how to redistribute an estate fairly, or to find out how much Inheritance Tax is due on it, speak to a reputable Kent tax advisor today.