Unlocking Possibilities: Understanding Post-Death Variations

In the aftermath of losing a loved one, navigating the complexities of their estate can be a daunting task.  Although when drafting Wills, we try to anticipate every eventuality, we never know what the future will hold and circumstances may change making earlier decisions no longer in the estates best interest. However, there exists a valuable tool known as post-death variations. This mechanism allows for adjustments to be made to an individual’s will or intestacy after their passing, opening up a realm of possibilities for efficient estate management. Below we explore the use of post-death variations, exploring how they work and the benefits they bring to the often intricate process of estate administration.

What is a Post-Death Variation?

A post-death variation, also known as a Deed of Variation, is a legal instrument that enables beneficiaries (those receiving a gift under a Will) to alter the distribution due to them from an estate after someone has passed away. This variation can be made to the deceased’s Will or, in the absence of a Will, to the rules of intestacy that dictate how the estate is distributed.

Reasons to Consider a Post-Death Variation:

  1. Tax Planning: One of the primary motivations for utilising a post-death variation is tax planning. Beneficiaries may choose to rearrange the distribution of assets to optimise inheritance tax liabilities, ensuring the most tax-efficient outcome.
  2. Equalisation of Shares: In situations where the original distribution of assets may seem unfair or impractical, a post-death variation allows beneficiaries to adjust their respective shares, promoting a more equitable distribution.
  3. Providing for Dependents: A variation can be employed to address the changing needs of dependents or family members, ensuring that they receive adequate provisions from the estate.
  4. Redirecting Assets: Beneficiaries might choose to redirect specific assets to another family member or even a charitable cause. This flexibility allows for a more personalised approach to estate planning, particularly where a gift to a beneficiary may inflate their personal estate causing a tax concern and they have no wish to keep the gift.

How Does the Process Work?

  1. Deed of Variation: The interested party must execute a Deed of Variation, clearly outlining the changes they wish to make to the original will or intestacy rules.
  2. Timeline: It’s crucial to initiate the variation within two years of the individual’s passing. Beyond this timeframe, tax advantages might not be applicable.
  3. Consent: If the estate includes minor beneficiaries or individuals lacking mental capacity, the court’s approval might be required. Otherwise, all affected beneficiaries should consent to the changes.
  4. Tax Implications: Depending on the nature of the variation, there could be tax implications. Seeking professional advice is essential to navigate the intricacies of inheritance tax and capital gains tax.

Benefits and Considerations:


  • Tax Efficiency: The primary advantage is the potential to reduce tax liabilities on the estate.
  • Flexibility: Offers flexibility in tailoring the distribution of assets to meet current family needs and circumstances.


  • Timeliness: Initiating the variation promptly is crucial to maximising tax benefits.
  • Consent: Obtaining the agreement of all affected beneficiaries is essential for a valid variation.


Post-death variations serve as a powerful tool within the realm of estate planning, offering a flexible and efficient means to address evolving family dynamics and financial considerations. In the wake of loss, the ability to adapt an estate’s distribution can provide both practical and emotional relief. However, given the legal intricacies and potential tax implications, it is imperative to seek professional advice to ensure that the variation aligns with legal requirements and achieves the desired outcomes.  It is also important to communicate your intentions as soon as possible as if multiple beneficiaries wish to vary their distributions, then it can be done in one document.

If you would like to discuss what to do after the loss of a loved one, please contact Maddie by phone: 07743586283 or e-mail: madeline@ne-familylaw.co.uk