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Deeds of Variation

As the beneficiary of a will after a loved one has died you may want to make changes to your entitlement. While the law does not allow a will to be rewritten, you can rearrange your share of the inheritance with a Deed of Variation.

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Solicitors for Deeds of Variation

At Rowlinsons our friendly expert Estate Administration team will help you write and obtain your Deed of Variation to let you redistribute your share of the inheritance in a way that’s best for you and your family.

In 2018 Rowlinsons were highly commended in the Solicitor Firm of the Year (North) category in the British Wills and Probate Awards.

Two of our probate solicitors are full members of STEP which shows they are recognised as experts in estate administration, with proven qualifications and experience. Both have received a STEP Worldwide Excellence Award for achieving the highest mark nationally in one of the core exams.

Our commitment to excellence gives you peace of mind knowing that the process of obtaining your Deed of Variation will go as smoothly as possible.


What is a Deed of Variation?

A Deed of Variation is a legal document which allows the beneficiary of a will to make changes to their entitlement so they can divert part or all of their inheritance to other people.

You can only alter your share of the inheritance and other beneficiaries may need to agree, especially if they’ll be affected by the changes.

The Deed of Variation details how you want your part of the estate to be distributed. Once the executors and beneficiaries sign the document and it’s accepted by the court it becomes legally binding.


Why would you want to make changes to a will?

You might have inherited assets that you'd like to redirect for various reasons. Maybe you want to minimise tax liabilities or ensure a fairer distribution among family members. That's where Deeds of Variation come into play. They offer a flexible, responsible way to amend the terms of a will after someone has passed away.

The reasons for wanting to rearrange the benefit you receive from a will may include:

  • You don’t need all your inheritance and would like it to benefit someone else.
  • As a family you want to even things out, so each beneficiary receives an equal share.
  • The circumstances have changed since the will was made, for example, the birth of a child or grandchild who hasn’t been considered in the will.
  • Beneficiaries would like certain assets passed on to other relatives, close friends, or charity.
  • There’s a more tax-efficient way to distribute the estate.


What changes can be made?

Anyone who is the beneficiary of a will can request changes to be made to their entitlement.

You can pass on your share of the inheritance to someone else whether they are named in the will or not. It’s up to you how you rearrange your entitlement, and the terms can be as simple or complex as you like tailored to you and your family’s needs.

For example, you can redirect some or all of your assets to different people or just one benefactor. Or you might want to give away your whole entitlement to charity or set up a trust.

The beneficiaries of the estate might decide between themselves how each other's share should be altered so they can find a way of redistributing assets that will benefit everyone in the family.


What changes can’t you make?

The law only lets you change what you’re entitled to. You cannot rewrite the will, but you can amend your portion of entitlement.

This means it’s not possible to change another person’s inheritance without their consent. This includes giving yourself a larger share of the estate unless it is gifted by another beneficiary.

A deed of variation will not let you change the named executor of the will or guardians.


Do you need to use a solicitor?

While you can write a Deed of Variation by yourself, it is not advisable as there may be serious legal and tax implications if it is done incorrectly.

While there’s no specific template or form to fill out, a Deed of Variation must meet certain criteria to be considered valid by the court. It’s recommended that you take legal advice on these complex matters to make sure what you’re doing is best for the estate and to ensure that the application has the best chance of being accepted.

If you need expert advice from an experienced wills and probate solicitor before making the application Rowlinsons can provide all the help for making a Deed of Variation.

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  • Candice Jones
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Who signs the deed?

Whatever way you decide to reallocate assets, these changes can only be made if all the beneficiaries who are affected by the changes and the executors agree and sign the deed.


Is there a time limit?

The changes made to a will after a person has died must be made within 2 years of their death.


Can you get a Deed of Variation if there’s no will?

When a person dies without a will then the rules of intestacy apply. These are a specific set of rules about who can inherit and what they can receive. You can still request a Deed of Variation and all beneficiaries must agree to changes and sign the request.

The rules of intestacy are quite rigid and may not reflect the complexity of your family circumstances. This is why you may want to use a Deed of Variation to change how the estate has been divided up under the rules of intestacy.

For example, beneficiaries may choose to alter their entitlement to benefit someone not covered by the rules of intestacy, for whom the deceased would have wanted to provide such as an unmarried partner.

What is the process of obtaining a Deed of Variation?

The process of obtaining a Deed of Variation is straightforward:

  1. Beneficiaries draft a document that outlines the new distribution of assets.
  2. The deed is signed by all affected beneficiaries and the executor of the will.
  3. Once the court approves the Deed of Variation it becomes legally binding.

The details of these changes are submitted to HMRC if there are any changes in tax liability due to the variation, so you pay the correct amount of Inheritance Tax or Capital Gains Tax.


What do I need to consider?

When putting together a Deed of Variation you must consider the effect on the estate. You need to understand the potential consequences because there may be implications for things like Inheritance Tax or Capital Gains Tax liability.

You also need to be prepared for impediments to making the changes such as if one of the beneficiaries doesn’t consent to the changes or is not legally able to (if they are a minor, for example).


Mitigating Inheritance Tax liabilities

When done correctly, a Deed of Variation can be an effective way of reducing both Inheritance Tax and Capital Gains Tax liability.

With a Deed of Variation, you can:

  • Adjust the distribution of someone’s estate to make it more tax-efficient
  • Make the best use of available tax reliefs and exemptions
  • Spread large amounts out more evenly
  • Pass your inheritance straight to your children so they receive the full benefit
  • Donate to charity

This does not mean you avoid paying taxes, but it can be a way for loved ones to take advantage of tax relief and make the most of the estate.


How much does a Deed of Variation cost?

The cost of obtaining a Deed of Variation depends on your individual circumstances and the complexity of the case. The advantage of effectively rearranging assets gifted in a will can sometimes save money in the long term.

Rowlinsons can talk you through your options to find out if obtaining a Deed of Variation would be the best course of action for you and your family.


Real-Life Example

Meet Sarah, a recent client. Her father left an estate that was to be equally divided among his three children. However, Sarah's brother had significant debts. Using a Deed of Variation, we helped Sarah and her sister redirect their brother's share to a trust, protecting the assets from creditors. It was a win-win for everyone.


Ready to Make a Change? Contact us

Life doesn't stand still, and neither should your estate planning. At Rowlinsons Solicitors, we're all about helping you adapt to life's twists and turns.

Rowlinsons Solicitors is a specialist law firm with years of experience dealing with all matters relating to probate and Deeds of Variation. We support clients across Cheshire and the North West from our offices in Frodsham and Runcorn (Sutton Weaver), including individuals in WarringtonWidnesSt HelensChester, and Northwich.

Our Personal Solicitors are experienced professionals, with accreditations in many areas of the law. As a specialist firm of Solicitors in Cheshire, we offer expert legal advice to clients across England and Wales. Contact us today to find out more about our Deed of Variation services.

Call us today for an initial no obligation call or click here for a call back. We also have meeting facilities in North Wales for Family Law clients.