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Murray Beith Murray is a leading Scottish private client law firm.

For over 170 years we have specialised in meeting the legal, financial and administrative needs of individuals and families, family trusts, charities and private companies.

Call us today on 0131 225 1200
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Can a Will be altered after death?

andrewFor many of us, a Will is one of the most important documents that we will ever prepare. Knowing that our wishes are explicitly stated for our loved ones to follow after our death can bring some comfort. We might rewrite or alter our Wills as we progress through life, but what happens if changes are needed to your Will after you have died? Is it possible to do this? This post will discuss the situations where this issue might arise and what can be done.

What reasons are there for altering a Will after death?

There are several legitimate reasons for altering a Will after death. Each family will be different and have their own reasons for altering a Will, but the following are among the most common.

To make the distribution of the estate more equal

    • The Will was written a long time ago and leaves out beneficiaries born after the Will was drafted.
    • The beneficiaries all agree that the estate should be more evenly distributed.

To tidy up any confusion or inefficiencies

    • The Will could be unclear on a specific issue, or the passage of time since the Will was written could have created some confusion which needs to be cleared up.
    • The Will may not be the most tax-efficient method of distributing the estate. Inheritance tax changes regularly. There could be a way of distributing the estate while reducing any inheritance tax due and honouring the wishes of their loved one.

The inheritance is not wanted or needed

    • A beneficiary of the estate may decide that they do not want or need their share of the inheritance. They may wish for their share to be redistributed to someone else, for example, a parent wanting their share of an inheritance to go to their child.
    • A beneficiary wanting their inheritance share to go to charity.

How can a Will be altered after death?

A legal document called a ‘Deed of Variation’ must be prepared. This is a written document that outlines clearly what parts of the estate are being changed. To be valid, it must be prepared within two years of the death and signed by anyone who would see their inheritance reduced or otherwise negatively affected.

What changes can be made with a Deed of Variation?

The focus of a Deed of Variation is the distribution of the estate. A beneficiary can use it to ensure that their inheritance reaches someone else either in part or in full. A Deed of Variation can also be used to make changes to each of the beneficiaries’ inheritance provided there is a collective agreement.

What changes cannot be made with a Deed of Variation?

As a Deed of Variation focuses on the distribution of an estate, it cannot make changes outside of that. Therefore, it cannot be used to change an executor. A Deed of Variation cannot be used to reduce another person’s inheritance without their permission.

Murray Beith Murray Solicitors, Edinburgh

Murray Beith Murray are experts in estate planning, including executries (probate) and taxation. To discuss any questions raised by this post or discuss any other legal matter, please complete our contact form or call us on 0131 225 1200 to speak to one of our specialist solicitors.

Murray Beith Murray was established in 1849, as advisors for generations of clients, committed to our values of integrity, expertise and trust. This aim and these values continue to this day as does our commitment to be here when you need us.

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