In wills and trusts, legacies are left either generally or specifically. As an example, a general bequest would simply state that an heir receives 1/3 of the value of the estate. A specific bequest, on the other hand, would state that a certain heir receives a certain automobile. With general bequests, there usually is no concern that the heir will lose his/her interest in the inheritance because it is not pinned down to any specific asset or item of property. But what happens when an item specifically bequeathed is no longer in a probate or trust estate for a beneficiary? Ademption.
Ademption describes the act by which a testator or trust-maker, by payment or gift during his lifetime, confers on an heir the benefit which the testator/trust-maker had proposed to give at death under a legacy; or the act by which a specific bequest becomes inoperative because it is withdrawn or disappears from the estate during the testator’s/trust-maker’s lifetime. Buder v. Stocke, 121 S.W.2d 852 (Mo. 1938). An ademption generally requires some act by the testator/trust-maker equivalent to revocation or indicative of an intent to revoke. In re Estate of Honse, 392 S.W.3d 511 (Mo. Ct. App. 2013).
Ademption is important because, among other things, a beneficiary’s inheritance can be adeemed (and thus fail) if caution is not exercised and there is a firm grasp on the line between a general bequest and specific bequest. Rather than an heir receive a portion of an estate or inheritance, the heir could receive nothing.
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