Advancement is a common law doctrine of intestate succession that presumes that gifts given to a person’s heir during that person’s life are intended as an advance on what that heir would inherit upon the death of the parent. For example, suppose person P had two children, A and B. Suppose also that P had $100,000, and gave $20,000 to child A before P’s death, leaving $80,000 in P’s estate. If P died without a will, and A and B were P’s only heirs, A and B would be entitled to split P’s estate evenly. If the doctrine of advancement were not applied, then each child would receive half of the remaining $80,000, or $40,000. However, if the doctrine of advancement is applied, then the $20,000 already given to A would be considered part of P’s estate advanced to A. Thus, the estate would still be valued at $100,000, and each heir would be entitled to $50,000, with the $20,000 already given to A being counted as part of his share. Of the remaining $80,000, A would take $30,000 and B would take $50,000.
A number of jurisdictions have enacted statutes which ameliorate the doctrine of advancement by requiring, for example, that the person giving the gift must indicate in writing that it is intended to be counted as an advancement against the estate. The Uniform Probate Code, which has been adopted in whole or in part by a number of states, limits the doctrine by requiring a writing from either the deceased or the recipient of the property indicating that the property was intended to be treated as an advance upon the estate.
Where a valid will exists, gifts made during lifetime are analyzed under a different doctrine, that of satisfaction of legacies.