Changing a Will after death with a Deed of Variation

Published: Mon Jun 18 2012

UK probate law allows the beneficiaries of an estate to change a deceased person’s Will or alter intestacy using a Deed of Variation document. This is often drawn up with the aim of reducing the amount of Inheritance Tax (IHT) that has to be paid from the estate. By redistributing the assets, it is sometimes possible to reduce the estate’s value to below the nil-rate band for IHT so no tax is payable.

The Deed of Variation can also be used to redistribute the assets amongst the beneficiaries, or enable new beneficiaries to inherit who were not named in the Will or who would not inherit under the Rules of Intestacy.

Typical reasons for drawing up a Deed of Variation include:
• Where the deceased person has left their entire estate to their partner, to avoid a large inheritance tax bill after the surviving partner’s death.
• To enable wealthier siblings to pass a portion of their parents’ inheritance to brothers and sisters who are less well-off.
• To allow parents to pass their share of the estate on to their children, often to reduce the IHT liability of the parents’ own estate.
• Where the deceased spouse had children, to make extra provision than the Rules of Intestacy allow for a surviving spouse.
• To enable unmarried partners, step-children, step-parents and step-siblings to inherit where the deceased person died intestate.
• To correct errors or omissions in the Will.

A Deed of Variation is often created after probate has been granted, but it must be signed within two years of the person’s death. It is only valid if the beneficiary agrees to the changes being made. The document must be drawn up in writing and signed by the beneficiary, plus the Executors or Administrators if more IHT has to be paid as a result of the Deed. If the beneficiary is aged under 18, an application must be made to the Court to give consent on their behalf.

Although a Deed of Variation is a useful way of reducing the IHT liability of an estate, there are strict rules around how it can be used, so it is important to make sure it is created correctly. An experienced probate solicitor can offer expert advice on the Deed of Variation and help draw up a valid and legal document.

The Co-operative Legal Services offers free legal advice on all aspects of UK probate and the probate process.


Notes to editor
The Co-operative Legal Services provides a range of legal services that are designed to make it easier for people to access high quality legal provision. Our services include will-writing, probate, conveyancing, personal injury, employment law and family law. Free, no obligation legal advice is provided with all these services. We operate nationally and, in the last year, have given legal assistance to more than 245,000 people. You can find out more at

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