Planning a Will: What you need to know about Bequests and Ademption

By Eryn Heidel

Having a will is undoubtedly a good choice; it gives you peace of mind that your affairs and your family will be taken care of when you are gone. But planning a will comes with a lot of important decisions and sometimes complicated questions.

You may have assets like vehicles, jewelry, and art that you want to give to specific people in your life. These gifts are called “specific bequests.” If you want to make specific bequests in your will, you should know about the concept of “ademption.”

“Ademption” is what happens when the subject of the bequest in a will no longer exists when the testator passes away because that item was sold, given away, or destroyed while the testator was still alive. For example, if you have a 2023 Kia Rio the year you create your will, you may decide that you want your daughter to have that vehicle when you pass away. But, if you trade in your 2023 Kia Rio for a 2028 Kia Rio before you pass away, the original bequest of your 2023 Kia Rio may fail, and your daughter will not receive the value of that original gift.

What happened? The short answer is that your estate no longer has a 2023 Kia Rio to gift, and the estate cannot give away what it does not have. If you want your daughter to receive your new model Kia Rio when you pass away, you will have to update your will every time you trade in your car.

There are ways to avoid ademption in the wording of the will. For example, you might declare that your daughter should have your personal vehicle in whatever make or model that should be at the time of your death. Or, you might declare that if no such vehicle exists at the time of your death, your daughter instead receives a cash gift in a specific amount.

There are a lot of decisions to make when you are planning your will, but you do not have to make them alone. If you need assistance in planning and drafting your will so that it accomplishes your wishes when you are gone, you can contact one of the experienced attorneys at Burchell MacDougall, who would be happy to help make these decisions a little bit easier.

This article is for information only and is not intended to be legal advice. If you have any questions or would like further information, you should consult a lawyer.