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Did you know beneficiaries can agree to change a Will?

Many people believe that a Last Will and Testament is an immutable document that cannot be changed or challenged.

However, that’s not quite true. Not only can a Will be challenged in certain circumstances, but the beneficiaries can also agree to change its provisions. Here, David Webb, a Director with Mander Hadley and Head of our Wills, Probate and Older Client Services department, explains the circumstances which might lead to an individual requesting a change in a Will:

How can a Will be changed?

A Will can be changed using a document called a Deed of Variation, which will enable the estate to be distributed in a different way from the one set out in the Will.

Why might you want to change a Will?

There are various reasons why beneficiaries might want to change a Will, but they split into three broad categories:

  • The first is where someone has been left out of a Will. This could be where a grandparent hasn’t left anything to a grandchild who had not been born when the Will was made. It could also be where someone has been left out inadvertently. Or it could be where someone would have been entitled to benefit from the estate under the provisions of the Inheritance Act and there is no dispute.
  • The second is where the Will has been drafted in such a way that more Inheritance Tax (IHT) is owed than needs to be the case. For instance, this might be the case if a main home has been left to someone other than a direct descendent, meaning that the estate has not benefited from the Residence Nil-Rate Band (RNRB), which can reduce an IHT bill by a significant amount.
  • The third is where something has not been left to the most appropriate person. This could range from personal effects to houses and businesses.

Who must agree to a change in a Will?

All beneficiaries must agree to a Deed of Variation. Where those beneficiaries are under the age of 18, the court will have to consent to the change first.

If just one beneficiary declines to agree to a Deed of Variation, it cannot proceed.

Are there time limits to change a Will?

If you are changing a Will for IHT reasons, then you will need to make a Deed of Variation within two years of the date of death.

If you are changing a Will for other reasons, then you can even make a Deed of Variation after the estate has been distributed.

To find out more about Wills and estate administration matters, please contact us.

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