At present (although this could change at any time) the law provides a very useful
mechanism for someone receiving a legacy to go back and change a Will retrospectively.
That is, within 2 years of the date of death, you can effectively go back and re-write
the part of the Will that relates to the legacy and specify that the particular gift
It is achieved by creating an “Instrument of Variation” (IOV or sometime also called
a Deed of Variation, DOV). In it you specify that rather than the gift going to yourself
it should go elsewhere - to a particular person, or people, or perhaps to a Trust
(maybe with yourself as one of the beneficiaries of the Trust). An IOV CANNOT take
a gift away from someone who wants to keep it - and normally you do not create one
for someone who is unable to make decisions for themselves (such as a minor child
or an adult who is not mentally capable)
So why bother? Why not just pass the gift to someone else directly? - mainly because
of Tax. The IOV means that the gift is treated as having come directly from the deceased
and not via you - giving potential for tax planning. By exploiting the full potential
of the Inheritance Tax Nil Rate Band a family might be able to save an extra £250,000
or so in future tax bills.
An IOV can be created when someone is intestate (i.e. died without a Will). Of course,
it is much better for all concerned to have made a proper Will in the first place,
thereby avoiding the expense and bother of creating an IOV. Indeed, with the major
political parties all having talked about closing this tax loophole no-one can rely
on it being available in the future.
Instrument of Variation
- going back to re-write a Will (also known as Deed of Variation)