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Revising the Distribution of a Will

What is a deed of Variation?

This is a document that can allow the beneficiary of an estate, who might not want, or require their full entitlement under a Will, to redirect where the assets pass. It may be land, cash, a share in the residuary estate or a beneficial interest in a Trust.

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Even if there is no Will left by the deceased, meaning the estate will follow the rules of Intestacy, a variation can still be entered into.

A variation works by allowing the beneficiary to redirect the interest that came to them originally from the deceased's estate. In effect, the beneficiary is transferring to another beneficiary some or all of the interest they have inherited.

The law says that, subject to strict conditions, a variation takes places as if it had been made by the deceased (and not by the beneficiary).

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Gary normally deals with multimillion-pound estates and complex matters. Gary regularly deals with high-net-worth clients and complex estates, and he has acted for directors of blue-chip companies, lottery winners, famous actors and writers.

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Why would I consider making a Variation?…

To re-direct benefits from one person to another: a common variation is where parents divert their inheritance to their children. This means that the parent does not need to survive 7 years from the date of the gift before it is outside their estate for the purpose of Inheritance Tax calculations.

To save tax: beneficiaries now consider taking advantage of the Transferrable Nil Rate band and Residence Nil Rate band, and passing assets to a beneficiary who is exempt from Inheritance Tax.

To compromise disputes over devolution of estates & claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975: under this Act the law enables certain people to bring claims against the estate. These are generally people that the deceased should be expected to provide for, but didn't. For instance, under current legislation, if a couple were living together but unmarried and one partner died without a Will, the other would not benefit under the law, and a Deed of Variation could enable provision to be made for them.

To resolve a defect in a Will: sadly, it can be the case that Wills, particularly "homemade" Wills, are defective in one way or another, creating a situation that it is clear the testator would not have wanted. A Deed of Variation may resolve this issue.

If a number of years have passed since a Will was put in place, it is entirely possible that the Will may be far less tax efficient at death than it was when originally done.

How does a Deed of Variation work?

The variation must be in writing and, although HM Revenue & Customs suggest a letter would suffice, a formal deed is usually prepared. There are many strict conditions to be met for a Deed of Variation to be valid. Some examples are:

What are the advantages and costs of entering into a Variation?

The retrospective treatment, from death, of a variation is an obvious advantage and an effective form of estate planning. However, a variation also affords a beneficiary a degree of control if, say, family circumstances have materially changed since the Will was made, and they wish to redirect all, or part, of their entitlement in an estate to benefit another or, perhaps, a charity or a trust.

If you want to alter the distribution of a loved one's estate, it is always recommended to get legal advice from a qualified solicitor.

At Premier Solicitors, we can provide you with first-class guidance on changing a will after someone's death and advise on the best course of action for your particular circumstance.

Call us today on 01234 358080 (option 2) or email us at and one of our team will get back to you.