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Accidental Disinheritance by “Ademption”

When people give particular assets to someone upon their death, what happens when that asset is no longer in the estate at the time of death? “Ademption” is the term used in the area of wills and trusts to describe a situation where property left to a beneficiary is no longer in the estate when the decedent dies. In that case, the property is “adeemed”, i.e. the gift “fails” and the beneficiary does not receive it.

As a example, a father leaves a condominium to his daughter- maybe because she lives in the state where it is located or he wants to keep it in the family and she would be most suited to inherit. He provides in his will or trust that his other two children divide the rest of his estate. Years later he decides to sell the condo but forgets to update his will or trust. When he dies, the condo is not part of his estate and since the daughter isn’t mentioned anywhere else in the estate plan, she is accidentally disinherited.

Another example is where a woman provides in her trust that she wants her 1000 shares of XYZ stock to go to her grandson. The rest of her estate is to be divided between her two children. She decides to sell the stock (or the company dissolves) but she forgets to update her trust to leave her grandson some other asset or cash bequest. When she later dies, the stock is not in her estate and the grandson gets nothing.

These are examples of unintended results caused by failing to update a will or a trust. Accidental disinheritance can occur in other ways too. Look for a later post on not coordinating your beneficiary designations with your will or trust. If you need your will or trust updated, contact us to set up a complimentary consultation.

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