Missing assets cause inheritance disputes

Published 01 May 2014

When a person decides to bequest specific assets in his or her will but loses or sells these gifts before dying, this can lead to complicated and costly inheritance disputes.

If a gift no longer exists once the individual has passed, this is known as ademption and can result in beneficiaries receiving nothing from the deceased’s estate. If you were promised your parents’ home in their will but the property was sold in the years before their deaths – what will you actually receive?

In many cases, the adeemed property will have been sold, injecting cash into the value of the entire estate. This often means the beneficiaries who were promised a percentage of the estate then receive much more than they were once intended, while those offered specific property receive nothing. Fortunately, if this occurs eligible people may be able to lodge family provisional claims to obtain a fair share of the estate.

Alternatively, a contesting wills lawyer may be able help the failed beneficiary recover the value of the specific gift. If the property was sold prior to the deceased death, the monetary value of the asset could be passed directly to the beneficiary.

However, this is not always the case. In some instances the specific property will not have been sold and no additional cash is available in the will. For example, if a car left to an individual was crashed instead of sold, there would be no finances to cover the gift in the estate. In this case, it is often up to the beneficiary to contest the will and actively seek out the financial gift he or she deserves.

Fortunately, there are a few exceptions to this rule. If the asset is sold without the will maker’s permission or authority, the intended beneficiary would still receive the proceeds of this sale.

To avoid gift ademption, those creating a will are encouraged to name substitute gifts in their estate planning. This could involve simply indicating the beneficiary should receive the proceeds of any sale, or naming an entirely different gift in the event of a sale or loss of specific property.

If a family member has passed and left you an adeemed gift, get in touch with a contesting wills lawyer today. A Gerard Malouf Partners contesting wills lawyer will help you receive the benefits you deserve, even when faced with ademption.

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