Definition: Abatement

Abatement is the process of reducing the gifts given in a will because the assets of the estate are not sufficient to pay all of the debts of the estate and also distribute the gifts as the testator intended.1

Unless otherwise directed by a will, the property of the estate abates in the following order:

  1. intestate property;
  2. gifts of the residue;
  3. general gifts;
  4. specific gifts.

That is, the personal representative will first use intestate property, if any, to satisfy the claims, followed by residual gifts, and so on. Note that for purposes of abatement, demonstrative gifts are treated as specific to the extent of the property or fund to which they relate, and are otherwise treated as general. In the abatement process, no preference is made between real property or personal property.

Within each category of gifts, when the assets of the estate are not sufficient to pay the gifts as directed by the will, the gifts are pro-rated and no priority is given between legatees and devisees.