What can I do if a bequest has been given away?

Annie Shaw / 22 June 2016

Annie Shaw answers a reader's dilemma about her mother giving away a ring that she had been promised as a bequest in her Will.



Question:

My mother always promised to leave me her diamond engagement ring because I was her carer, and she included the bequest in her Will. 

She died at Christmas and I now discover that she gave the ring to my brother’s daughter five years ago as a 21st birthday present. 

Apart from a few other small legacies, she left the rest of her estate to be shared equally between my brother and me. 

I think I should at least receive the value of the ring before the residue is shared out. Is this right?

Read Paul Lewis' guide to inheritance tax. 

Answer:

Sadly you have no legal right to compensation for not receiving the ring. If a specific bequest is made of an item that the deceased no longer owned, it is simply ignored in a process known as ‘ademption’. 

Your story is a timely reminder to everyone to keep their Will up-to-date in respect of both current assets and the proposed recipients of bequests.

If your mother’s estate is above the inheritance tax threshold, then the value of the diamond ring would need to be included in the calculation, as seven years have not elapsed since the date of the gift to your niece, so you may find that it is subject to tax.

Annie Shaw writes a regular column in Saga Magazine. Subscribe here. 

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.