Can I Alter A Will After My Relative Has Died?

When someone dies, their beneficiaries have two years to alter the deceased’s Will.

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By Nicola Briggs - 22nd June 2021

When someone dies, their beneficiaries have two years to alter the deceased’s Will. This is achieved with a Deed of Variation and can help to limit tax liabilities.

Why alter a Will after someone dies?

Sometimes, a beneficiary receives a gift in a Will that they do not want. For example, it could be that:

  • A gift has been received by somebody who is already wealthy in their own right and they would prefer to see the gift passed on to their less well-established children;
  • There have been changes to the family since the Will was executed, such as the birth or death of a family member;
  • The Will writer lost capacity before death and was unable to implement changes to their Will which would have been helpful to the family;
  • There is a dispute looming within the family;
  • The Will is completely inefficient for Inheritance Tax purposes, particularly where it was not changed following the introduction of the transferrable Nil Rate Band and the Residential Nil Rate Band.

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Reduce tax liabilities

If a beneficiary receives a gift that they don’t want, they can give it to someone else by making a lifetime gift. However, this can trigger various tax liabilities, including Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax and Stamp Duty Land Tax. For this reason, the beneficiaries of a Will are given a two-year window in which to alter the Will, thereby allowing them to avoid these tax complications. If you want to do this, you need to ask a solicitor to draw up a Deed of Variation.

Views on what is acceptable when it comes to reducing tax liabilities change over time. There are often fears that these generous provisions enabling post-death alterations will be withdrawn. If this happens, it will be of particular concern to those who are set to inherit under a homemade Will. This is because these Wills are often drawn up without a proper understanding of the Inheritance Tax implications.

Ask the wills and probate solicitors

If we are instructed to administer an estate, we will always notify the family if we feel they would benefit from a Deed of Variation. They are not expensive to implement, but can have significant tax advantages.

This is one of the many benefits of using a solicitor for probate and estate administration. Those who are administering the estate of a loved one without professional advice often miss the two-year window, or are unaware of the advantages an alteration can make.

If you would like to discuss a Deed of Variation, or you would like us to administer your loved one’s estate, please contact our wills solicitors for a free initial enquiry.

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