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Can a will be changed after death? This is a common question for our wills and probate solicitors in London. A Deed of Variation after probate is used when beneficiaries wish to make changes to entitlements under a will. Every situation is unique, but the process should be completed within two years of the date of death. Our wills and probate solicitors in London can provide legal advice that is specific to your situation.

Reasons for a Deed of Variation

A Deed of Variation allows a beneficiarcy to redirect his or her gift in a will to benefit another person. This is most commonly used for tax savings purposes. For example, it can prevent tax from being levied twice. If a beneficiary dies and then leaves their gift to another person, it will be subject to another inheritance tax. When the gift is redirected, the second tax is avoided.

There are reasons for filing a Deed of Variation, other than taxes. These include altering the interests under a will to benefit a person who was omitted from the original will, not given adequate provisions under the original will, or to redirect an entitlement to a child or a charity. It can also be used to amend a defect in a will or resolve any uncertainty that may exist with a will or alter the intestacy rules

Alterations made using a Deed of Variation are treated as though the changes were made by the deceased, rather than the beneficiary giving up his or her entitlement. The consent of everyone affected by the change must be given in order to use this method to change entitlements under a will. A beneficiary must be of legal age to sign the deed in order to use a Deed of Variation. When the beneficiary is a child, the consent of the court is needed to make the change.

The Legal Process

In order to use this method to change an entitlement to a preferable tax position, the Deed of Variation must meet certain conditions. It must be completed within two years of the date of death. There can be no inducements, such as cash payments given to a beneficiary, the proper tax declarations must be listed in the deed, and the destination of an asset cannot be varied more than once.

In order for the Deed of Variation to be valid, it must be signed by all beneficiaries and executors. The variation must clearly indicate all inheritance that is being varied and how they will be altered. There are other requirements for variations that are made for specific purposes. It is a good idea to get the advice of a lawyer to ensure that the Deed of Variation meets all legal requirements.

When the variation alters the recipient of stocks, shares, or marketable securities, it must contain a Stamp Duty exemption certificate. For variations that are being done for inheritance or capital gains purposes, a statement must be included that it is intended to take effect for tax purposes. When the variation changes the inheritance tax, a copy of the variation must be sent to HM Revenue & Customs. Our solicitors can advise you of all legal requirements for a Deed of Variation and prepare all necessary paperwork for you.

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