The will bequeathed real property to decedent’s two daughters, Watson and Fitzsimmons, with a life estate to Watson. Before decedent’s death Watson used a power of attorney to deed the property to herself. The Second Department determined decedent retained equitable title to the property at death. The deed was determined to be voidable, not void ab initio, and was not declared void until after death. Fitzsimmons argued that the devise of the property adeemed because it was not in decedent’s estate at death. Therefore, Fitzsimmons argued, the life estate awarded Watson in the will was cut off. Affirming Surrogate’s Court, the Second Department held the devise of the property had not adeemed:
The doctrine of ademption provides that “[u]nless the property devised or the thing bequeathed was found in the estate of the [decedent] at the time of [his or] her death, the will was necessarily inoperative as to that provision” … . Fitzsimmons asserted that because the deed to Watson was not void ab initio and was not declared void until after the decedent’s death, the decedent did not own the property at the time of her death, having deeded it to Watson. As such, Fitzsimmons contended that the devise of the property in the will adeemed, and that the property should pass through the residuary estate, which left 50% each to Fitzsimmons and Watson, thereby cutting off Watson’s life estate.
Under the particular circumstances of this case, the Surrogate’s Court properly held that the specific devise of property should not be determined to have adeemed, although it was not owned by the decedent at the time of her death. The deed by which the property was transferred to Watson was voidable, and thus, the decedent retained equitable title to the property, which title reverted to her estate when Fitzsimmons successfully asserted the estate’s claims to it … . Matter of Hill, 2016 NY Slip Op 00499, 2nd Dept 1-27-16
TRUSTS AND ESTATES (DEVISE OF REAL PROPERTY HAD NOT ADEEMED)/ADEMPTION (DEVISE OF REAL PROPERTY HAD NOT ADEEMED DESPITE DEED PURPORTING TO TRANSFER PROPERTY PRIOR TO DEATH)/DEEDS (VOIDABLE DEED, DECEDENT RETAINED EQUITABLE TITLE AT DEATH)