Failure of Gifts: Abatement and Ademption
When making a Will, there are various types of gifts that a testator may wish to include: general, specific and demonstrative legacies. Before considering the effect of failure of gifts in a Will, it is important to identify each of the types of legacy available to a testator.
A general legacy, as the name suggests, comes out of the testator’s estate generally, and does not specify a particular item or class. This includes pecuniary legacies – general gift of funds from an estate “I gift the sum of £500.00”. By comparison, a specific legacy identifies a particular item “my Rolex watch”. Finally, a demonstrative legacy outlines a specific fund out of which the gift is to be made “I give £1,000 from my Lloyds Bank ISA”.
Quite often a significant amount of time passes by from a Will being written to the death of the testator and circumstances can change meaning that the testator’s estate is vastly different upon death. On some occasions, assets referred to in a Will may no longer exist or be owned by the testator, or the estate may have insufficient funds in which to settle all legacies in full. This will result in the failure of the gift by either Abatement or Ademption
Abatement is the rule which applies where the testator’s estate is solvent, but unable to satisfy all legacies in full following the payment of any tax and administration expenses. As a result, the gifts in the Will are reduced in a certain order depending on the nature of the estate.
The order in which legacies in an estate abate are as follows:
- The residuary estate abates first as this is everything remaining after the payment of all other legacies, tax and administration expenses
- General legacies abate next, which usually means pecuniary legacies but also any demonstrative legacies where the designated fund has ceased to exist (as above, should the Lloyds Bank ISA no longer exist at the date of death)
- Specific and demonstrative legacies abate last and all in proportion to one another
It is important to note that the order of Abatement is subject to any contrary intention by the testator in the Will.
Ademption applies where the subject matter of the gift no longer exists at the date of the testator’s death. Any disposal of an intended gift – sale, loss or destruction will result in ademption.
The intended beneficiary of a gift which fails by ademption will have no automatic right to any cash equivalent where the subject matter was sold by the testator, or proceeds of an insurance claim if the asset was destroyed, unless there is an express provision by the testator in the Will.
The issues of Abatement and Ademption can provide complicated and frustrating for both Executors and Beneficiaries of an estate upon administration. The likelihood of any gifts failing by either Abatement of Ademption can be reduced greatly or avoided altogether by regular review and update of your Will to ensure that it accurately reflects your estate.
For any further information regarding gifts in a Will, the principles of Abatement or Ademption of the drafting of a Will then please contact the Society of Will Writers.