Deed of Variation

Legal Terms Explained

Contrary to popular belief, you can change a person’s will or inheritance after they pass away, provided that all beneficiaries who are left worse off by the amendments agree to it.  

This can be particularly useful if the deceased passed away without a legally valid will, or if someone who deserved a portion of the estate was left out of the will. 

In order to change a person’s will (or inheritance under intestacy rules), you will need to make a deed of variation.  

What is a deed of variation? 

A deed of variation to a will is a document that gives the beneficiaries named within a will (or beneficiaries under intestacy rules) the legal right to change the distribution of the estate of a deceased individual. 

So, if the beneficiaries of a will believe that someone who has not been named in the will deserves to receive some of the inheritance, they can create a deed of variation to make an amendment. The same goes for beneficiaries under the rules of intestacy, where the deceased has passed away without a will. 

Read more: What Happens if You Die Intestate in the UK? 

A deed of variation is a legitimate way of changing a will after someone’s death, but all beneficiaries who would be affected by the amendment to the estate distribution must agree to the change. 

The main requirements of a deed of variation letter are:  

  • All beneficiaries affected must be over 18-years-old.  

  • All beneficiaries affected must agree to the amendments. 

  • None of the affected beneficiaries who reduce their share of the estate should be compensated for what they consequently miss out on. 

  • A deed of variation must not be made based on receiving payments from a third-party or someone outside of the estate. 

  • There must be Court approval if the variation affects the share of children or unborn children. 

  • It must be arranged within two years of the testator’s death if it’s made for inheritance tax or capital gains tax purposes. 

Can you make a deed of variation after probate? 

It’s worth noting that a deed of variation can still be made after the grant of probate has been issued, and even if the estate has already been shared out among beneficiaries. 

However, time limits may apply, as mentioned below. 


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Who signs a deed of variation? 

The beneficiary or beneficiaries whose shares of the estate would be affected by the change made within the deed of variation must mutually agree to the amendment and sign the document.  

Additionally, the new beneficiary who will be receiving a share of the estate thanks to the deed of variation will also need to sign, to show that they agree and accept the inheritance. 

The signatures of the will’s executors are only required if the deed of variation increases the inheritance tax due. 

Is there a deed of variation time limit? 

The changes to a will through a deed of variation must be made within two years of the death of the deceased. 

Note: If the variation increases the inheritance tax due, you must also notify HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) within six months of it being implemented.  

How much does a deed of variation cost? 

The cost of a deed of variation varies considerably depending on how you create one.  

You can make a deed of variation yourself using a DIY template, which would inevitably be cheap or even free, but you would need to put a lot of time and effort into the document, and it might end up being legally invalid due to minor errors. 

For more information on how we can help you with the process of probate, wills and deeds of variation, be sure to complete our short contact form and we’ll be in touch at a time that suits you. 


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Example of a deed of variation letter 

A beneficiary of a will can choose to reduce their share of the estate to provide it to someone who was not named in the will or eligible under intestacy rules.  

Some examples of how deeds of variation can be useful include:  

  • If someone is not eligible to receive a share of the estate due to intestacy rules (the deceased not having a legally valid will in place at the time of their death), the beneficiaries can agree to reduce their percentages to provide that individual with a share of the estate.  

  • If the deceased does not have time to amend their will prior to their death to provide for a close friend or relative who cared for them towards the end of their life, the existing beneficiaries may decide to contribute some of their own shares to that individual through a deed of variation. 

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Article reviewed 16th June 2021