Where's My Inheritance? Understanding Ademption

19 July 2018
 Categories: Law, Blog


Where there's a will there may not always be a way to get your inheritance. Wills are meant to present a way for property to be distributed after a death, but what happens when that property no longer exists? If you have a will or are about to have one, read to learn more about the problems that could occur if you fail to update it.

Life happens and wills get stale

Wills that were made several years ago and were never updated can be worse than no will at all when it comes to the confusion and disappointment it could bring to your loved ones. Wills get stale and need revisiting every year or so or when a life event, like one of the following, causes a change:

  • You buy or sell property
  • You welcome new family members
  • Your interest in certain charities changes
  • You declare bankruptcy and some of your property is seized by the trustee
  • Your home is burglarized and some items are missing

The reading of the will

Once you pass away the will you left behind must be followed and when a piece of property addressed in that will is no longer available it could cause problems. The way probate law handles missing property depends on the property itself.


A piece of "hard" property that is no longer available for any reason is considered to be adeemed. That means that whoever was expecting to get that valuable painting that got stolen is out of luck. There are no means to substitute other property or to provide the cash value, it is simply lost and the beneficiary does not receive their inheritance. Having this happen is a very good reason to update a will when your property undergoes a change of status. A simple phone call to your attorney would have prompted either a new will or a codicil to be added onto the current will to address a piece of missing property.

Property in liquid form can be cash from a bank account, insurance policy, investment account, retirement account or a lock box. When cash is missing from an inheritance it must be replaced and cannot be adeemed as it can with a piece of hard property. The money to replace it must come from other assets of the estate and this can create hard feelings, confusion, and stress on your loved ones. For example, if you leave your daughter-in-law $5,000 in cash from your savings account and that money is no longer present in your account, it must still be paid from another source. Property can be sold to accomplish the bequest and in estates where there is a division based on percentages the amount everyone gets is diminished when that happens.

Don't allow this to create problems for your loved ones. Speak to an estate attorney like David R Webb Attorney today.