Full Overview Of Ademption

Ademption holds significant importance in the intricate landscape of wills and estate planning. Ademption pertains to the failure of a specific gift in a will because the property is no longer part of the deceased’s estate at the time of death. This detailed overview clarifies the nuances of ademption, its types, implications, and exceptions, providing a comprehensive understanding for legal professionals and laypersons.

What is Ademption?

Ademption arises when a specific bequest in a will cannot be fulfilled because the item is no longer available in the testator’s estate at the time of their death. This typically occurs in one of two ways: ademption by extinction and ademption by satisfaction.

Ademption by Extinction

Ademption by extinction occurs when the specific item bequeathed in the will is no longer in the testator’s possession at the time of death. For instance, if a will bequeaths a particular piece of jewellery to a beneficiary, but the jewellery is sold or lost before the testator’s death, the bequest is adeemed. The beneficiary receives nothing in place of the specified item.

Key Factors in Ademption by Extinction:

  1. Nature of the Gift: The gift must be specific, such as a particular asset or item, rather than a general or demonstrative gift.
  2. Non-Existence of the Gift: The item must no longer be part of the estate due to reasons such as sale, loss, destruction, or consumption.
  3. Intentions of the Testator: Courts may examine the testator’s intentions, though traditionally, the focus remains on the physical existence of the asset.

Ademption by Satisfaction

Ademption by satisfaction, on the other hand, occurs when the testator, during their lifetime, gives a gift that fulfils the bequest in the will. This often applies to monetary gifts or assets that can be measured in value.

Key Factors in Ademption by Satisfaction:

  1. Lifetime Gift: The testator must give a gift during their lifetime that corresponds to the bequest in the will.
  2. Intent to Satisfy the Bequest: There must be clear evidence that the lifetime gift was intended to satisfy the will’s provision. This is typically supported by written declarations from the testator or acknowledgements by the beneficiary.
  3. Value Equivalence: The value of the lifetime gift should be comparable to the value of the specific bequest in the will.

Implications of Ademption

The doctrine of ademption has several implications for both beneficiaries and estate executors. Understanding these implications is crucial for effective estate planning and administration.

For Beneficiaries:

  1. Unfulfilled Expectations: Beneficiaries may face disappointment and financial loss if a specific bequest is adeemed, especially if they were relying on receiving that particular asset.
  2. Legal Recourse: In some cases, beneficiaries may seek legal recourse to contest the ademption, arguing misinterpretation or changes in the testator’s intentions. However, success in such cases is contingent on substantial evidence.

For Executors:

  1. Estate Valuation: Executors must accurately value the estate and identify any specific bequests that may be subject to ademption.
  2. Communication: Clear communication with beneficiaries about potential redemptions and the status of specific bequests is essential to managing expectations and mitigating disputes.
  3. Record Keeping: Maintaining detailed records of the testator’s assets and any lifetime gifts is vital to determine the applicability of ademption by satisfaction.

Exceptions and Judicial Approaches

While the doctrine of ademption is generally straightforward, several exceptions and judicial approaches can alter its application.

Conversion of Property:

Suppose the specific bequest is converted into another form, such as selling a property and using the proceeds to buy another. In that case, courts may consider whether the new asset is a direct substitute. If it is deemed a replacement, the bequest might not be adeemed.

Partial Ademption:

In cases where only part of the specific asset is no longer available, such as a portion of a collection being sold, partial ademption may occur. The beneficiary receives the remaining part of the asset, and the value of the disposed portion is considered adeemed.

Incapacity of the Testator:

If the testator is incapacitated and an asset is sold or disposed of by a legal guardian or attorney, some jurisdictions recognise that the doctrine of ademption may not apply. The rationale is that the testator did not voluntarily part with the asset.

Replacement or Insurance Proceeds:

If a specific bequest, such as a car or piece of art, is destroyed but replaced or insured, the replacement item or insurance proceeds may be given to the beneficiary, preventing ademption.

Judicial Interpretations:

Courts may adopt varying approaches to ademption, influenced by jurisdictional differences and the specifics of each case. Some courts adhere strictly to the doctrine, focusing on the physical existence of the asset, while others may consider the testator’s intentions more flexibly.

Case Law Examples

Examining case law provides insight into how courts interpret and apply the doctrine of ademption.

Re Dorman [1994] 2 WLR 534

In this case, the testator bequeathed a specific bank account to a beneficiary. Subsequently, the account was closed, and the funds transferred to another account. The court held that the bequest was not adeemed because the new account was a direct substitution, maintaining the same character and intent as the original bequest.

Re Slater [1907] 1 Ch 665

Here, the testator left a specific bequest of a leasehold property. Before their death, the property was sold, and the proceeds were used to purchase another property. The court ruled that the bequest was adeemed since the new property was not a direct substitute for the original leasehold.

Practical Considerations for Estate Planning

Several practical considerations should be considered during estate planning to mitigate the risks and uncertainties associated with ademption.

Clear Drafting of Wills:

Wills should be clearly drafted, specifying the testator’s intentions regarding specific bequests. Including alternative provisions or instructions for situations where the specific asset is no longer available can help avoid ademption.

Regular Review and Updates:

Regularly reviewing and updating the will ensures that it accurately reflects the testator’s current assets and intentions. Changes in the testator’s circumstances, such as asset disposals or acquisitions, should prompt a review of the will.

Communication with Beneficiaries:

Open communication with beneficiaries about the will’s contents and any changes made to the estate can help manage expectations and reduce potential disputes.

Consideration of General Bequests:

Where appropriate, opting for general bequests rather than specific ones can reduce the risk of ademption. General bequests are fulfilled from the estate’s general assets and are less likely to be affected by changes in the testator’s asset portfolio.

Legal Advice and Professional Assistance:

Seeking legal advice and professional assistance in drafting and updating the will can provide invaluable guidance and ensure that the will is robust against potential issues like ademption.


Ademption is a critical concept in wills and estate planning, with significant implications for beneficiaries and executors. Understanding the types of ademption, their implications, and the potential exceptions is crucial for effective estate management.

Adopting transparent drafting practices, maintaining open communication, and seeking professional guidance can mitigate the risks associated with ademption, ensuring that the testator’s final wishes are honoured and beneficiaries receive their intended legacies.

In estate planning, staying informed about legal developments and best practices is essential for legal professionals and individuals. As with many aspects of the law, each case of ademption is unique, and careful consideration must be given to the circumstances surrounding each will and estate.

Ademption FAQ'S

Ademption occurs when a specific gift left in a will is no longer part of the estate at the time of the testator’s death. As a result, the gift fails, and the beneficiary receives nothing.

Ademption typically happens when the specific item bequeathed in a will is sold, destroyed, or otherwise disposed of before the testator’s death.

To avoid ademption, a testator can either avoid making specific bequests or ensure that they update their will regularly to reflect any changes in their assets.

No, ademption only applies to specific gifts. General gifts (like a sum of money) or demonstrative gifts (money from a specific source) are not subject to ademption.

If a gift is adeemed, the intended beneficiary does not receive the item or any compensation for its loss.

Beneficiaries typically have no recourse when a specific gift is adeemed unless they can prove the testator intended otherwise or if statutory exceptions apply.

Yes, partial ademption can occur if only part of the specifically bequeathed item is no longer available. The beneficiary may receive the remaining part of the gift.

Certain exceptions may apply, such as if an attorney sold the property under a lasting power of attorney, and the proceeds can be traced.

If specific shares or investments bequeathed in a will are no longer held at the testator’s death, the gift is adeemed, and the beneficiary receives nothing unless the will provides otherwise.

Generally, the proceeds from the sale of a specific item are not given to the beneficiary if ademption occurs, unless the will explicitly states that the proceeds should be given in place of the item.


This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 16th July 2024.

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Our team of professionals are based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. We offer clear, specialist legal advice in all matters relating to Family Law, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Lasting Power of Attorney and Court of Protection.

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