How to Change a Will after Death



How to Change a Will after Death

How to Change a Will after Death

This blog is about changing a will after death. It’s not about changing a will before death. And it’s not about trying to make good a glaring omission in a will after someone dies, for example if you discover the will wasn’t signed. This is potentially an “intestacy” (more of which below) unless an earlier will is discovered. But don’t worry, changes can also be made after death where there is an intestacy.

If you’re thinking of making a will make sure you get advice from an expert – this could save your family a lot of heartache and money in the long run.

See my recent blog Do I need a will? Here’s one very good reason to find out how to benefit your family.

Why would anyone want to change a will after death?

Reasons include:

  • Reduce inheritance tax or capital gains tax
  • Benefit someone who was overlooked in the will
  • Skip a generation

What’s an intestacy?

It’s when someone dies without making a will.  The intestacy rules apply to decide who gets what. Here’s a helpful guide Intestacy – who inherits if someone dies without a will

How is a will or intestacy changed after death?

It is changed with a document known as a deed of variation or a deed of family arrangement. There are various important rules if you want it to be effective. 

What is a deed of variation or deed of family arrangement?

A written agreement changing the will (or intestacy) after death. There are certain requirements. The beneficiary or beneficiaries who have inherited must be agreeable to the change and the change must take place within two years of the death to be effective for tax purposes.

But there are other very strict rules too. Here is a link to a helpful HMRC form Instrument of Variation ChecklistYou can use this form to see if you will meet the requirements of the Inheritance Tax Act and the Taxation of Chargeable Gains Act. HMRC recommends you go through the form before the variation is signed.

But if you have the slightest doubt please seek expert legal advice – this can be free, low cost or fixed cost.

I still don’t get it, can you give me an example?

Imagine a situation where there are three generations of a family: grandmother (Edna), daughter (Barbara), and granddaughter (Sophie). When Edna dies she leaves everything to Barbara. Shortly afterwards, Barbara discovers she herself is seriously ill.

Although both Edna and Barbara lived very modestly, added together their estates would be liable to inheritance tax. Barbara wants to leave everything to Sophie but doesn’t want her daughter to pay tax. She comes to us and asks us what she can do.

We advise a deed of variation. This sets out that the gift in Edna’s will to Barbara goes instead to Sophie. This meant that when Sophie inherits her mother’s estate shortly afterwards, there is no inheritance tax to pay. Edna’s estate has skipped a generation to Sophie.

What about joint ownership?

If you inherited as a joint owner but you would much rather someone else benefitted, this can be changed too.

How to Change a Will after Death

Contact expert Wills solicitor, Karen Layland, on 01202 798199 or by email karenlayland@just-family-law.com for an initial free of charge consultation on the question How to Change a Will after DeathIn this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family lawyers. We offer Pay as you go costs. We offer Collaborative law solutions tailored to your family’s needs.

The topics covered in this blog post How to Change a Will after Death are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

image Young Old by Heptagon on Wikimedia

Read the article

Do I Need A Will? Here’s One Very Good Reason …

Do I Need A Will“Do I need a Will?” Yes, you do, you need to make sure you benefit the right people: your family, your best mate, your dog. Because if you forget to make a Will all your property and savings could end up going to a distant relation you don’t like or have never even met.

People leave everything to their pets?

Yes they do. In 2004 Leona Helmsley famously left billions to her dog, Trouble, an appropriate name as this unusual Will ended up being disputed in Court. And that’s what we all want to avoid isn’t it, the money going to the lawyers. This can happen if you mess up when it comes to making, or not making, a Will.

But seriously, what could a Will mean for you? Read on for answers to the following questions:

  • Writing your own Will, what could possibly go wrong?
  • Do I need a Will? “Intestacy” and why it’s a bad thing
  • Good things a Will could do for you
  • Wills for the young and the young at heart – online accounts and social media
  • Owning a property or planning to buy – Inheritance Tax!
  • Special rules for Wills if you are getting divorced

Writing your own Will, what could possibly go wrong? 

Without expert legal advice you risk paying Inheritance Tax at 40 percent on anything over £325,000. And you will need legal advice if you have complicated family arrangements or are financially supporting someone, or if you estate includes:

  • foreign property, bank accounts, investments
  • a business
  • finances which are anything other than straightforward 

And did you know if you leave your home to your children your tax-free threshold can increase to £450,000? Make sure you check out the rules with an expert.

Writing your own Will? The resulting legal dispute could end up in Court and cost a fortune.

Do I need a Will? “Intestacy” and why it’s a bad thing 

Intestacy is when someone dies and there’s no Will. The intestacy rules set out a list of family members who benefit in strict order. But if you haven’t got any close relations your estate could end up going to someone you’ve never met.

And if you don’t have any relations, worse case scenario, everything could go to the Crown – no, not the TV series but the state, Parliament, our nation. Do you want your few pennies worth to drop into the bottomless pit of the UK balance of payments deficit? 

Good things a Will could do for you 

Put your mind at rest. Make sure your family and friends know you thought about them. Save them the agony (and huge expense) of going to Court if there’s a dispute about who should get what. Save inheritance tax.

Or perhaps you want to benefit charity? Doing something good in the world after you die might be a top priority (it’ll also save inheritance tax). Or donate your body to science.

Or give a couple of thousand to a group of friends to celebrate your life with a weekend away in Amsterdam.

A woodland burial might be just right for you – mention it in your Will.

But the most important thing is the right people (or pets!) will benefit from your estate.

Wills for the young and the young at heart – online accounts and social media 

Wills aren’t just for rich old people, they’re for everyone. You’re never too young to make a Will. Everyone has something to pass on even if it’s just social media and other online accounts. Otherwise bank accounts could be overlooked and your social media memories and photographs lost forever.

Own a property or planning to buy? – Inheritance Tax!

You can easily become liable to Inheritance Tax (40 percent on anything over £325,000) but with a solicitor’s help you can reduce it or avoid it altogether. With house prices in the UK shooting up more and more of us will be caught. Look at these stats about average property values (from Zoopla):

  • Hampshire £360,532
  • Winchester £553,508
  • Dorset £332,138
  • UK £235,021 

Special rules for Wills if you are getting divorced 

Did you know? Getting divorced will revoke your Will. So this could mean your new partner losing not only you but your home.

Can it get any worse? Not having a Will, or a Will written by an expert, can leave your loved ones with a mess to sort out and solicitors’ bills to pay

Did you know you can protect joint property whilst you are divorcing? If you die before you have a financial Order your ex could inherit your jointly owned property. This is a complicated subject and you should speak to an expert family law solicitor about taking a simple step called “Severing the Joint Tenancy” and making a Will.

See my blog about how to protect your financial settlement with an Order Quick Divorce or Safe Divorce? How To Protect Your Financial Settlement 

Do I need a Will?

Contact expert Wills solicitor, Karen Layland, on 01202 798199 or by email karenlayland@just-family-law.com  for free advice on the topics raised in “Do I Need A Will”. In this 20 minute session we will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.


JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering personalised legal solutions. We offer collaborative law which is especially relevant in providing solutions tailored to your family’s needs. This includes same sex couples and their families. Visit our website just-family-law.com The topics covered in this blog post are complex and are provided for general guidance only. Therefore if any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog have application to you, seek expert legal advice. 

image Chesapeake Bay Retriever puppy (6weeks old) by Benbas on Wikimedia

Read the article