small house that was gifted on top of a large pile of money.

Your Aunt Edna recently died (sorry to hear that, but she was in bad health anyway). She left a 1987 Will.

In that Will, she left you her 1986 Buick Century Station Wagon. It’s a true classic, complete with fake wood side panels. Unfortunately, three months before she died, she sold her Buick and bought a new Cadillac.

What a blessing, you think. She clearly wanted you to have her car, and you would much rather have the Cadillac than an old station wagon.

Sorry to give you the bad news – you aren’t getting the Cadillac. In fact, you aren’t getting anything as a result of the “Doctrine of Ademption,” which covers property that is not in existence at death. Aunt Edna’s gift to you at death is called a “specific bequest.” Under Texas law, if the property named in a specific bequest (the car) is not in the decedent’s estate at the time of her death, then the gift adeems (is taken away).

In other words, you get nothing.

Had the specific bequest instead described the vehicle simply as “my car”, then you would have received her Cadillac. That language would be interpreted as a gift of whatever car she owned at the time of her death.

Not surprisingly, there have been a lot of disappointed beneficiaries who have brought lawsuits over the Doctrine of Ademption. And there are probably a lot of decedents who would have worded their Wills differently had they realized the consequences.

The best way to forestall an unintended consequence is to clarify, in the Will, Aunt Edna’s true intentions. Most well-drafted Wills that contain a specific bequest also have language addressing ademption. The Will may provide that a bequest “lapses” if the bequeathed item is not owned at the time of death. Or the Will may provide that a substitute item or dollar amount be given to the beneficiary.

Hammerle Finley Law Firm. Give Us A Call. We Can Help.

The information contained in this article is general information only and does not constitute legal advice. ©2015