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The language of the law. Part Latin, part Anglo-Saxon, all confusing.

Yep, The Legal Genealogist is back on the road.

(I’m sure that will come as a shock… not…)

It’s the start of the 2019 institutes as the 2019 Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy gets underway, and Rick Sayre and I begin our class, The Family History Law Library, and — well — there isn’t much that as much fun to this law geek as a class full of bright, motivated genealogists who really want to learn about the law, and these teaching tasks are fun!

But it does mean that time to do things like write blog posts (or sleep…) is in short supply. So since nobody wants the blog to go silent, as time permits we’ll have some fun with some more legal alphabet soup.

Letter A

So, today, A is for ademption. No, not adoption. Whole ‘nother field of the law here. The field of probate law.

Let’s say in 1850, John Smith owns 300 acres of land. He writes a will in which he leaves 100 acres to son John Jr., 100 acres to son Robert and 100 acres to son David.

In 1851, John Jr. finds himself the girl of his dreams and wants to get married. So Senior deeds to Junior the 100 acres he intends for Junior to have, without making any reference to the will at all.

Between 1851 and 1855, John Sr. never changes a single word in his will.

In 1855, John Sr. dies and that 1850 will is admitted to probate.

Who gets what?

The will says each of the three sons is supposed to get 100 acres, but Senior only owned 200 acres when he died. Does each son now get one third of the 200 acre?

This isn’t exactly a hotchpot situation (for which see the post A hodgepodge of hotchpot1).

No, what it is, is an ademption, defined as the “revocation, recalling, or cancellation of a legacy, according to the apparent intention of the testator, implied by the law from acts done by him in his life, though such acts do not amount to an express revocation of it.”2

In other words, Junior already got his share during Senior’s lifetime by the gift of the land in 1851, and that had the effect of revoking or cancelling that part of the will. It certainly accords with Senior’s expressed intent in the will — that each son get 100 acres — and was done not because of anything Senior said but because of what he did.


Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “2019 alphabet soup: A is for…,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 14 Jan 2019 ( : accessed date).

  1. Judy G. Russell, “A hodgepodge of hotchpot,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 7 Aug 2012 ( : accessed 14 Jan 2019).
  2. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 36, “ademption.”
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