I understood the fact of missing assets one Sunday in my long-ago youth.
The neighbours with whom we shared a party wall invited us to lunch. One of those affairs featuring lots of charred meat. There was plenty of undercooked meat and burnt food.

What drives men? Men who would not cook indoors. Indoors, in kitchens with scope to master the heat and opportunity to temper the flame. Men shy from such control and predictability of their inputs. But, they’re inexplicably keen to take their chances in the wild. Like you know, many an episode of food poisoning has arisen from a poor barbeque, notwithstanding, I never saw meat I didn’t like.

Stop Stealing My Ice

That outdoor lunch of my youth was without much worthy of one’s remembrances. But.
One member of our party made several frequent trips to the ice bucket.
After, her half dozenth topping up of her glass, her frustration was spilled over. The young lady, in tones meretricious indignation, implored her brother: ‘stop stealing my ice’.

Some way shy of her fourth birthday, the lass was thus appraised of her brother’s innocence. Indeed, that as no crime had been committed, the fellow had impeached without cause. A civics lesson.

A physics lesson. A simple lesson in physics on the inevitability of ice melting in warmer liquid. The physics of the impossibility of ice cubes not to melt on a sweltering summer day. The physics lesson therefore put me in mind of missing assets.

Missing Assets: If You Can’t See It…

Avoiding ice cubes melting on a summer’s day would be easier than avoiding a common lament. Open your television or turn on your newspaper. If you fired up the wireless it would be hard to avoid the requiems to the high street. Difficult to avoid the moans that the high street was dying.
The Cassandras, with cannon and cowbell, they tell us the internet is throttling the high street.
The Jeremiahs, with tambourine and trumpet they affect an air of inevitability.
The high street is of meagre vitality because we let it so.

But. You’re one of those who sees merit in keeping our common spaces alive. You, I’m sure in the near past visited your local retail emporium. You, alighting on the item of your desire, enquired of the shopkeeper if it was stocked in the colour, size or perhaps other specification of your preference. Answered in the affirmative, you thus became a satisfied customer.

But. Despite your successful purchase, you had been readied for an unhelpful retort. You half expected to hear: ‘if you can’t see it on the shelf, we don’t have it’.

Missing Assets: What Are You After?

In a way, that’s how wills work. If your executors can’t see it, then, that’s it. Of missing assets, to paraphrase the shopkeeper: ‘if you can’t find it, then it’s lost [to the estate, and the beneficiaries]. Listing items in a will provides comfort to the testator, but it provides false comfort.

As a rule, it’s unwise to list assets in a will. Listing assets can make estate administration difficult. The executors would spend lots of energy and effort in quest of non-existent assets. They’ll spend so much time chasing ghosts that are missing assets: remember, time… is money.
Executors have been known to regard a list of assets in the will as if it were exhaustive. And, why shouldn’t they?

As the shopkeepers say: ‘If you can’t see it, we don’t have it.’.
It’s a long-grounded principle in wills and succession. It’s called ademption.

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