When a Bequest From a Will Goes Missing

Almost everyone understands the importance of making out a will as part of an estate plan, but few people ever realize how equally important it is to follow up on that will. As time passes, your life will inevitably go through changes that could affect the bequests of your original will you created years ago. When you forget to update that will, your loved ones could be facing a situation known as ademption. Read on to learn more about this unfortunate situation that could be easily prevented.

When property disappears

You may be under the mistaken impression that when an asset named in a will is no longer available to be bequeathed in a will, it is simply skipped over or other property is provided in its place. That, unfortunately, is not the case. Property that is no longer available is handled in one of two ways, depending on the nature of the property itself.

Adeemed Property

In some cases, the property that was mentioned in a will cannot be provided to the beneficiary for one reason or the other. The reason the property is not available for the inheritance is irrelevant; it can be lost, sold, stolen, or something else. For example, consider the following scenario: You left your rare coin collection to your grandson in your will. At some point between the time you created your will and the time of your death, your home was broken into and the coins were stolen. When the will is read, the coin collection is considered to be adeemed.

In other words, the bequest cannot be fulfilled because the coins are no longer the property of the deceased. Since the bequest cannot be fulfilled, there is no remedy. Your grandson will not get the coins, and no other property can be substituted for those coins. Having this occur can make a sad situation even sadder, so make sure that you revisit your will every year or so and take care to update it to avoid ademption.

Property That Cannot Be Adeemed

In other cases, the missing property cannot be adeemed, and provisions must be made to "make good" on the bequest. One common example of property that cannot be adeemed are funds in an account. It can be a checking account, savings account, or another account. This is where the exact wording of the bequest comes into play. If your will states that any funds in a given account be provided to a named person, the contents of that account must be provided to them regardless of the amount of money in the account. If the account has no money in it or the account no longer exists, that property is considered adeemed.

However, if the wording of the will states that a given sum of money from an account be provided to a named person, that sum of money must be given to them. For example, if you leave $5,000 from your savings account to your aunt, that money must be provided to her whether there are any funds in that account or not. If other estate property must be sold to fulfill the bequest, then that is the responsibility of the personal representative (executor).

Avoid these issues by updating your will on a timely basis by talking to a lawyer experienced in living wills, such as the Wright Law Offices, PLLC.