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Ademption can wipe out a beneficiary's gift: Here's why

A will is an important legal document since it is designed to distribute assets in a person's estate. The trouble with a will is that it isn't always going to be up to date. Sometimes, items are sold or taken from the estate, so they're not able to be distributed once the person passes away.

In those cases, a phrase you may want to get to know is will ademption. Ademption is a common law doctrine used to determine what happens if a person no longer owns an item that has been designated for distribution in their will. For example, if your mother leaves behind a residential property for your brother but had sold it prior to her death, that property would obviously be unable to be distributed to your brother. The gift would be considered adeemed, and it would not be distributed. Essentially, ademption wipes out the possibility of receiving that gift, because it's not the decedent's asset to give away.

In some cases, the beneficiary still won't be left with nothing. For example, if cash was to be left to them, then there may be a requirement for that money to be raised by the estate prior to distribution. Everything in this kind of situation relies on state laws, the kind of gifts to be distributed and on the intent of the testator.

It can be tricky to know what to do if you are left assets that are no longer in your loved one's name. If you believe you're being left a gift that's already been sold, lost or destroyed, you may want to speak with your attorney about your options.

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