Can A Will Be Changed After Death?

sarah ryan
Sarah RyanAccount Manager @ Lawhive & Non-Practising Solicitor
Updated on 25th October 2023

Losing a loved one is undoubtedly a challenging time, and dealing with legal matters, like probate applications or even will disputes, can add an extra layer of stress and complexity. In some circumstances, it's not unusual to wonder if there is any possibility of altering a will after someone has passed away. After all, circumstances can and do change, and new information may come to light that could impact the distribution of assets.


In this article, we’ll explore the different scenarios where a will may be changed after death and the legal processes involved.

Can a will be changed after death?

Short answer: No. Once a person has passed away, their will can’t be changed. However, you can challenge a will or you can redirect (or regift) what has been left in a will to someone else using a deed of variation.

But you cannot totally rewrite someone else’s will after they have passed.

Why is this?

A will is a way of saying, "Here's what I want to happen with my stuff when I'm not around anymore." And, in the UK, the law generally respects your wishes when it comes to distributing your assets (known as testamentary freedom), so you can leave your prized stamp collection to your nephew, your vintage car to your best friend, and your savings to your favourite charity, if you like. What you say goes.

You can also update your will if your wishes change - obviously while you are still alive. When you create a new will, it automatically cancels any previous wills you've made. So, if you've had a change of heart, you absolutely can change your will while you're alive and of sound mind by making a codicil to the existing will, or starting from scratch.

Reasons for changing a will after death


There are a number of reasons why someone might want to change a will following the death of a loved one. In the first instance, they may suspect foul play or worry that the final will wasn’t made while they were in sound mind and isn’t reflective of their wishes.

However, there are less dramatic reasons why a will may need to be changed after death, too.

For example, it may be that a family member has been given a sum of money in the will but they decide they don’t want their share and they’d like to ‘gift’ it to someone else or give it to charity.

Another very valid example is if beneficiaries collectively feel that someone has not received a fair share.

It’s impossible to cover all of the reasons why beneficiaries might want a will to be changed after someone has died, but it’s still important to note: You cannot rewrite a will for someone else after they have died.

But there are legal processes you may want to explore if you have reservations over the validity of a will, or feel it might be appropriate to redirect assets.

Challenging the Validity of a Will

Sometimes, a person might think that a will doesn’t reflect the true intentions of the person who made it. That's where challenging the validity of, or contesting a will, comes into play.

But you can't just do it because you disagree with the decisions made; there are specific grounds for contesting a will like:

  • Lack of testamentary capacity: This means the person making the will wasn't of sound mind when they did it.

  • Undue influence: If someone pressured the will-maker into making certain decisions, that's a no-no.

  • Fraud or forgery: If the will is fake or has been tampered with, it's a clear reason to contest it.

Lack of proper formalities: If a will doesn't meet legal requirements, it can be challenged.

But challenging a will isn't a walk in the park. It involves a legal process. You'd typically need to file a claim in court, and the burden of proof falls on the person contesting the will so if this is an avenue you want to explore, you should seek legal advice if you believe there are grounds to challenge a will.

Deed of Variation

Sometimes, a person or persons may not want to challenge a will, instead they may want to change the way assets are distributed after someone's passed away.

That's where a deed of variation comes in. Sometimes referred to a deed of family arrangement, this allows beneficiaries to redirect their share, or part of their share, of an inheritance elsewhere.

But deed of variations have their rules too, and everyone affected by the change needs to agree. It can't be used to create a completely new set of instructions, nor can it be used to take away inheritance from one person and give it to another, unless they agree to it.


Whether you would like to challenge the validity of a will or organise a deed of variation in conjunction with other beneficiaries, it is advisable to work with a wills, trust and probate solicitor on matters like these. This is because the process can be complex and in some cases can cause tension or strain between beneficiaries, family members and loved ones.

At Lawhive, our expert wills, trust and probate solicitors are on hand to assist and advise you in changing a will after death, from reviewing a will to creating a deed of variation to redirect assets as agreed by beneficiaries. To get started, tell us about your case and we will give you a fixed-fee quotes for the services you require in less than 5 minutes, and get you working with the best solicitor for your case as quickly as possible, so you can put the matter behind you sooner rather than later.

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