Elements of Gifts Causa Mortis
A valid inter vivos gift involves:
- intent by the donor facing imminent to donate;
- delivery of the gift; and
- acceptance by the donor.
Delivery of the Gift
The gift must be delivered to the recipient. That’s easy if it’s something handheld like jewelry that you’re wearing, but what about anything that the donor doesn’t have on them personally? So long as the “delivery” is sufficiently symbolic, that will suffice if physical delivery at the time of the gifts is impractical.
Let’s say a donor wanted to make a gift causa mortis of an antique piece of furniture to their niece. At the time the donor was residing in a hospice facility and very clearly toward the very end of her terminal illness. It would be impractical for the law to expect the dying donor to physical deliver the furniture to her niece. As long as the donor gave the niece a symbolic representation of the gift, such as writing out the details of the furniture’s location and details in the presence of a witness, it would likely be found valid upon the donor’s passing.
Another example that applies arose out of a case where a donor’s delivery was found to be valid where she signed the back of her car’s certificate of title to gift the automobile to her brother.
Can I Get a Witness?
To avoid post-mortem litigation by other heirs-at-law or the decedent’s estate’s executor, it’s preferable if the delivery of the gift is witnessed by a third party who can attest to the validity of the gift. Additionally, if there is an option for a piece of writing to be made out detailing the gifts and signed in the presence of a third party, that’s even better.
Revocable & Conditional
What’s the Difference Between Gifts Causa Mortis and Testamentary Gifts?
How do Gifts Causa Mortis Fit into Taxes?
Final Words on Gifts Causa Mortis
Gifts Causa Mortis or not, there is no substitute for an airtight, updated estate plan. If you have such a plan in place, there’s no need to try and meet all the elements and intricacies of gifts causa mortis.
None of us know when our time will come, and we may not have the opportunity to give away our prized possessions via causa mortis right before death. But, we can know that estate plans never expire and can give you peace of mind that your property will be pass to the people you intend without legal contest (which can arise from gifts of causa mortis).
No questions are dumb questions when it comes to the complex world of property and estates. Don’t hesitate to contact GFLF or schedule a free consult to get your estate planning needs and goals in order.