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Deed of Variation of a Will Template – Guide to Our Template

Posted by David Cammack on November 17, 2018

Use a deed of variation of a will to change the entitlements of beneficiaries of a will. It can apply to one or more beneficiaries. You can use it to change the will of a person after their death. That means you can change where part of the estate goes. With our helpful guide, deeds of variation are easy to put in place.

What is a deed of variation?

Use this deed where a person has died and has left a will. You would use a different document to vary the entitlements of the beneficiaries of an intestate estate. For example, where the deceased died without making a will.

The deed of variation operates to change who inherits where someone has left a will. Bear in mind that you would only use this template where a valid will exists. If a will does not exist, then use the deed of variation on Intestacy template instead.

In the UK you can make the variation either before, or after, you obtain probate for the estate. However, please note that any variation must be done within two years. That is two years from the date of the death of the deceased.

People regularly ask us for a deed of variation for probate, or a deed of variation after probate. That is what this deed template is for.

Use our simple deed of variation template to vary the will’s terms. Divert all or some of that inheritance to someone else.

When to use a deed of variation

The deed of variation can be put in place after probate has been obtained. However, you must get it in place within two years of death. You’ll also hear it referred to as a ‘deed of variation for a will after death‘. Just a few of the ways of referring to a deed of variation of a will.

This page contains a summary of the full guide that is included when you download Legalo’s Deed of Variation for Will template. 

The template is downloadable in Word format. Using the Word document you can also save it as a PDF for signature. You will need access to a laptop or computer running Microsoft Word (or an equivalent).

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When To Use Our Deed of Variation of a Will

Our template deed of variation of a will has several options within the template, so it is suitable for use:

1. To divert/vary part or all of the person’s inheritance under the will; or

2. Where there was an asset that was owned jointly with the deceased under a “joint tenancy” (e.g. a house) which, as a result of the death, has now become owned solely by the survivor; or

3. In diverting/varying the legacy to:

(a) someone else who is a beneficiary under the will or

(b) someone who would not otherwise be a beneficiary under the will; or

4. Where executors have not taken out a grant of probate. (This is provided that the estate is sufficiently small that you do not need to obtain a grant of probate.)

A common mistake that people make is to use this deed of variation where a will has not been left.

The deed of variation of a will is not suitable for use for someone who has died “intestate”. That means they died without leaving a valid will. You need a slightly different deed to vary it, but a suitable one is available from Legalo: deed of variation for intestacy template. By applying the rules of intestacy, you can see who the beneficiaries would be in an intestate estate.

Varying the legacy into a trust

If you are varying the estate to put the assets into a new trust (i.e. not one already in existence or one created by the will), then you will separately need to create that trust – this deed does not do that for you. Legalo do not offer any trust deeds, so you will need to instruct a solicitor to draft one for you. This is because they are complex and the tax situation needs to be fully understood. If you already have a trust established, then you can vary the will, to divert the assets into a trust. You can use our template for this.

Do I need to notify HMRC of the deed of variation?

A further issue to consider is whether the variation to the will result in more Inheritance Tax becoming payable. This is rare, but if it does, then HMRC must be notified. Make the notification to HMRC within six months of the date of the deed of variation. Full details on how to notify HMRC can be found here.

For advice on tax issues about the variation to the will, you will need to consult a specialist. Ideally, this would be a specialist such as a probate solicitor, or an accountant that deals in Inheritance Tax advice.

Legalo Ltd is unable to provide such advice. However, we can put you in touch with an appropriate probate solicitor. We operate a panel of vetted and approved law firms that can assist when required.

You may also find the following article helpful and which explains how to calculate Inheritance Tax: https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/calculating-and-paying-tax-after-someone-dies.

You only need to send a copy of the deed to HMRC if the variation increases the Inheritance Tax due. This would be very rare. The Current Beneficiary should keep the original safe. Ensure all the other parties have had a copy of it.

Keep it safe

You might need to produce it in the future if the party named as the Current Beneficiary (see below) dies within 7 years of the date of the deed of variation. In such a case, the deed will demonstrate that the original inheritance was never received by the Current Beneficiary. Therefore, it does not constitute a gift made by them in their lifetime. It might otherwise be liable for Inheritance Tax if they died within 7 years of making such a gift. That is the core purpose of the deed of variation. This is where you are aiming to reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax.

For details on how to go about obtaining a grant of representation, if you need one, see the Government’s website at https://www.gov.uk/wills-probate-inheritance/overview.

Cost of a Deed of Variation

The deed of variation costs £49. The solicitors’ fees for a deed of variation would be about £650 plus VAT, but they can vary considerably. Therefore you get a great saving if you create the deed yourself.

A deed of variation is very simple to finalise and put in place. Especially when you start with a professionally-written template! Our great guide to completing the template helps too. You get both for just £49 when you purchase the deed of variation template from us.

Clauses in this Deed of Variation of a Will

Below is an explanation of the main clauses that our deed of variation of a will contains.

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Insert just the year at this stage.

Hand write the rest of the date in the deed once all the parties have signed it.

Party clauses

You will need to insert the names and addresses of party 1 and party 2. These are the original beneficiary under the will and the person to whom the assets are diverted.

If party 1 comprises more than 1 person, write in all their names and addresses. Also add the word “together” before the words in quotes “the Current Beneficiary”. Then add further signature clauses at the end of the deed of variation.

If the variation to the will causes more Inheritance Tax to arise on the estate, then the Personal Representatives of the estate (i.e. the Executors of the deceased) should also be parties to the deed. If so then add them as party 3 in similar form to the other parties.

Also add an additional signature clause (or as many as are needed) at the end of the deed. Use the same format as the others, with the extra party’s name in it.

The same applies if there is more than one person as the “New Beneficiary”, so follow the steps above.

Variation of Joint Tenancy Property

If the variation relates to property owned under a joint tenancy between the deceased and more than one other party, then you need to name both/all of these other parties as “the Current Beneficiary”.

To do this, list their name(s) and address(es) in the same paragraph as party 1 and before the words in quotes “the Current Beneficiary” add the word “together” (not in quotes).

Also add an additional signature clause (or as many as you need). This goes at the end of the deed, in the same format as the others.

Background To the Variation

This section sets out basic information relating to the deceased and the will that is to be varied.

(A) Fill in the name of the deceased and the date of their passing. If there was one or more codicil to the will, then keep the words in square brackets at the end of line 1 – make it plural or singular as appropriate – and keep the word together on line 2. If not, delete the words in square brackets at the end of line 1 and on line 2.

(B) Depending on how many assets are being diverted to the new beneficiary by this deed of variation, it may be easier to list them in this clause or in the schedule. if so select which option you are using. Then fill in the details to identify them clearly, whether you are doing so in this clause or the schedule.

If not using the schedule for this purpose, then delete the schedule in the deed of variation of a will. Select the correct options as to whether the assets are owned jointly with the Current Beneficiary or solely by the deceased.

It may be simpler to refer to the Share of the estate to which the current beneficiary is entitled being diverted in full to the new beneficiary. If so, then delete this clause B and the schedule, and deal with the variation under clause C.

(C) Here you need to select which option applies on line 1. It may be easier to refer to the whole Share of the estate being diverted to the new beneficiary if this is the case, rather than by referring to certain Assets in clause B.

If, under the terms of the will, the current beneficiary is entitled to the whole of the estate of the deceased (the net estate after paying the Inheritance Tax and debts due is known as the “residuary estate”), then you may prefer to refer to the Residuary Estate.

Whichever applies, select the relevant option and fill in the fraction or percentage entitlement of the current beneficiary if relevant. If deleting clause B, then when referring to the Assets, ensure you keep the wording “the assets described in Schedule 1 (“the Assets”)” in clause C, as you will otherwise have deleted the definition of them when deleting clause B. If keeping clause B, you can delete those words.

(D) Select the relevant options that apply here.

Numbered clauses in the Deed of Variation

1. Interpretation of Deed

This clause sets some basic rules of interpretation of the deed. If you have deleted the schedule, you can delete the words in square brackets in clause 1.3.

2. Variation of Will

This clause is the main part of the deed of variation of a will template. It effects the variation of the estate.

Complete the clauses as appropriate. Depending on how much of the inheritance you are diverting, edit accordingly. In clause 2.1, fill in the details as appropriate and select the options that apply.

In lines 1 to 4 of clause 2.2, fill in the details as appropriate and select the options that apply. Select whether the assets are passing free of Inheritance Tax in the hands of the new beneficiary (i.e. the residuary estate has already paid it or someone else is paying it out of their share of the estate) or subject to the new beneficiary’s paying the Tax out of this gift.

If you are passing the whole of the current beneficiary’s entitlement, under the terms of the existing will, to the new beneficiary, then delete the whole of the phrase on lines 3 to 4 of the template that is in square brackets.

If not, within that last section, keep or delete the phrase “(net of any inheritance tax liability arising on the gift to the New Beneficiary)”, depending on who is bearing the burden of the relevant Inheritance Tax.

On line 6 of clause 2.2, of the template, if no income has yet arisen (since the date of death) from the assets being diverted or if the accrued income is not to be transferred to the new beneficiary with them, then delete the words “[payable after the date of this deed]”. In the last line of clause 2.2, again choose the right option. This depends on whether the gift is subject to Inheritance Tax in the hands of the new beneficiary or not.

If the New Beneficiary is in fact more than one person and they are sharing the Asset (or whichever definition you are using – e.g. Share, Legacy or Residuary Estate), then state in clause 2.2 that they are receiving it “in equal shares”, by adding those words after the words “given to the New Beneficiary” on line 3. If they are not receiving it in equal shares, you may prefer to do one deed for each New Beneficiary, instead of bundling them together into one deed (as you may find this simpler). If you decide to do more than one deed, you only need to buy it once from Legalo and you can then use it as many times as you need for this estate

In clause 2.3, choose whether or not it is subject to Inheritance Tax in the hands of the New Beneficiary.

If the assets were not subject to a joint tenancy between the current beneficiary and the deceased, then delete the clause 2.4.

When keeping clause 2.4, if the joint tenancy was just between the two of them, then keep the words “in equal shares” on line 4.

If there were more than 2 joint owners, then specify the basis of ownership. E.g. “as to one third owned by the Deceased and the rest by the Current Beneficiary” if there were 3 owners in the joint tenancy.

Select the applicable options in the last 4 lines of this clause. Whether the share of the Assets is:

  1. to go to the new beneficiary as if left as a legacy under the will; or
  2. simply to pass into the estate of the deceased and for distribution in accordance with the will, as with the rest of the estate.

If the former, then choose whether or not it is subject to Inheritance Tax in the hands of the New Beneficiary. If the latter, then choose the correct reference to “his” or “her” in this option.

3. Statement

This clause in the deed of variation of will declares whether relevant parts of 2 tax laws apply. They are the Inheritance Tax Act 1984 and Taxation of Chargeable Gains Act 1992 apply or not. I.e. if you intend the variation to have retrospective effect. It would then apply as if the gift made by the variation were instead a gift made by the deceased via his or her will, for the purposes of Inheritance Tax and Capital Gains Tax.

For the terms of the deed to have such retrospective effect, it must contain a specific statement. “All the relevant persons” must make the statement.  This is in accordance with section 142(2) of the Inheritance Tax Act 1984). I.e. the Current Beneficiary (and the Personal Representatives if there is an increased Inheritance Tax bill as a result of this variation) or “by the persons making the instrument”. I.e. signing this deed (in accordance with sections 62 (6) & (7) of the Taxation of Chargeable Gains Act 1992) that they intend the relevant sections to apply to the variation.

The Personal Representatives may refuse to join in the statement if there are insufficient assets. Insufficient within the estate to pay the increased Inheritance Tax charge.

Amend the statement where the parties intend that one or both sections should not apply. You will always need the first part of the statement about Inheritance Tax, as this has the key “deed of variation” effect of ensuring the money gifted by the deed of variation is treated as never being received by the Current Beneficiary, so never delete this.

Capital Gains Tax

The second part about capital gains (the Taxation of Chargeable Gains Act 1992) is optional, so here you do need to make a choice. If you have not sold off all the investment assets in the estate such as an investment share portfolio or an investment property that was rented out (you are generally ignoring the deceased’s main residence for this purpose) then there may be a capital gain on which the estate has to pay tax when it is sold. If you prefer to pass that asset on to the New Beneficiary without paying the capital gains tax now, but making the New Beneficiary potentially liable for the accrued gain when he or she sells it eventually, then keep the next section by choosing “and” in the option in the middle of this clause, and deleting “but not”.

In the case of your electing that section 62(6) of the Taxation of Chargeable Gains Act 1992 applies to the variation, you need to give notice of this variation to the Inland Revenue, by sending them a copy of it (and possibly also completing a form – check the HMRC’s website about this process). In other cases you do not need to inform them. The Current Beneficiary simply keeps the original signed deed of variation. We would suggest he or she stores it with his or her Will.

4. Stamp Duty on share transfers

This clause is optional. You only need it if the assets that are the subject of the variation are, or include, shares (meaning stocks, shares or other marketable securities). If they do, then keep this whole clause. As the variation has to be by way of a gift, then the clause should be correct as it stands, and the transfer of the shares should be exempt from Stamp Duty. If the assets do not include any shares, then delete the whole clause.


As noted above, either fill this in or delete it as applicable.

Who Signs A Deed of Variation?

The Current Beneficiaries (i.e. those affected by the deed of variation of the will) must sign it. Technically, the New Beneficiaries do not need to sign unless they are agreeing to pay any Inheritance Tax due in respect of the property that is transferring to them. It is common for the executor(s) to also sign. However, this is not a legal acquirement unless the variation will give rise to a change in Inheritance Tax.

This is a summary guide. The template deed of variation download includes the complete version with its download. Do browse our full range of Wills and Probate templates and other legal documents that we have available.

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