Ademption is a term which is used to describe situations in which bequests left in a will cannot be fulfilled because the bequeathed object is no longer available. When ademption occurs, the heir is generally deemed out of luck when it comes to receiving the request, although the executor may make an attempt to honor the gift in other ways. This situation most commonly occurs when a will is old at the time of the testator's death, and as a result it contains outdated clauses.
In a simple example of ademption, Mark might will a watch to his daughter Mary. However, if Mark sells the watch before he dies or if the watch is stolen, Mary gets nothing, because Mark doesn't actually own the property anymore. Mary cannot claim the watch or its value, because the watch was not in Mark's possession at the time of his death.
Property can also be subject to ademption because it is transformed in some way before the testator dies. For example, if someone wills a car to someone else, but trades the car in before death, the heir is not automatically entitled to the new car. However, in situations like this, the executor may determine that, given the intent of the will, the transformed property should be transferred to the heir.
In ademption by extinction, the property is not available to give to the heir because it is gone, no longer in the control of the testator at the time of death, or so radically transformed that it is no longer the object described in the will. In ademption by satisfaction, the testator transfers the property to the heir before death. The heir cannot inherit the property, because he or she already controls it.
In an example of ademption by satisfaction, a parent could write a will leaving his or her home to a child. If the parent signs the deed to the home over to the child before death, the clause in the will is no longer valid, because the child received the property already.
It is important for people to keep their wills updated to make sure that the information is current. This will make it easier for the executor to settle bequests, and it will help to eliminate confusion while settling the estate. It is also advisable to make sure that family members and the named executor know where the most recent copy of the will is located so that time will not be wasted finding and verifying the will; some people prefer to leave their wills in the keeping of their lawyers for safety and convenience.