Can a Will be changed after death? 

Yes, a will can be changed after death.  You can even vary intestacy, where the deceased failed to make a Will, and the law takes over. Although this rarely provides the outcome the deceased would have wanted. We look at what to do if you inherit money from someone’s estate but would rather it was given to someone else.

In this article we take a look at how a Will can be changed after death, including the legal position, options and time frame.

There are several reasons why someone might want to change the effect of a Will (or intestacy) after a death. In some circumstances, it is possible to do this. The options are either:

  • Disclaiming an inheritance. If you have been left something but do not want to accept it.
  • Varying who will receive your inheritance. This means you can say who you want the inheritance to be passed to.
Why would someone want to change the effect of a Will after a death?

There are a range of reasons why someone might want to alter who receives a legacy/inheritance after a death, including:

  • You want the inheritance/gift you have been left to go to someone else instead
  • The beneficiaries feel that the estate should have included someone else. Therefore, they want to provide an equal share for that person.
  • The Will is not up to date and circumstances have changed since it was made. For example, a new grandchild could have been born.
  • It may be more tax efficient to change the effect of the Will. For example, passing a legacy directly to a grandchild, instead of to a child. Thus avoiding payment of two lots of Inheritance Tax.
  • The beneficiaries want to leave 10% of the net estate to charity so that the rate of Inheritance Tax is reduced.
Disclaiming a gift/inheritance

If you do not want to accept something that you have been left in a Will, you can disclaim the gift or inheritance. This must be done within two years of the date of death.

You have to disclaim the whole gift, not part of it. This means that if you have been left a lump sum, you must accept or disclaim the whole sum. If you have been left specific items however, you can choose to accept one but not another. When you disclaim, the gift will pass to the person entitled to inherit it under the terms of the Will. This means that you cannot nominate whom you want to receive it.

Varying the terms of a Will (or intestacy)

A beneficiary can execute a Deed of Variation to vary the terms of a Will. Everyone affected by the changes needs to agree. You will be able to choose whom to give your legacy/inheritance to. If it was left jointly to you and someone else, they would also need to agree and sign the Deed.

Again, this needs to be done within two years of the date of death. It is not possible for someone aged under 18 to agree to any changes that affect them, nor can anyone agree to this on their behalf.

A Deed of Variation cannot be used to change executors or guardians.  Deeds of Variation are often used to mitigate Inheritance Tax or protect assets against future threats such as care fees or sideways disinheritance. 

Professional advice

Changing the terms of a Will (or intestacy) can have substantial tax and other implications. It is important to take legal advice from an experienced estate planning practitioner if you are contemplating this. It is also crucial to ensure that any Deed of Disclaimer or Deed of Variation is correctly drafted and executed. In order to avoid any difficulties in the future.  Deeds can only be drafted by solicitors; our associated solicitors Acer Prime Law are very experienced in this type of work.

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