Causa Mortis


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Causa Mortis

[Latin, In contemplation of approaching death.] A phrase sometimes used in reference to a deathbed gift, or a gift causa mortis, since the giving of the gift is made in expectation of approaching death. A gift causa mortis is distinguishable from a gift inter vivos, which is a gift made during the donor's (the giver's) lifetime.

The donor of the gift of Personal Property must expect to die imminently from a particular ailment or event. This has important consequences in terms of the donor's ability to revoke the gift.

For example, an elderly man is suffering from pneumonia and believes he is going to die as a result of the sickness. He tells his grandson that if he dies, he will give the grandson his pocket watch. If the man recovers and wants to retain his watch, he will be able to do so, because a gift causa mortis is effective only if made in contemplation of death due to a known condition and the donor actually dies as a result of that condition.

A gift causa mortis is taxed under federal estate tax law in the same way as a gift bequeathed by a will.

References in periodicals archive ?
For example, a will usually needs to be in writing whereas a gift causa mortis is usually not, a will is not required to be executed in "immediate apprehension" of impending death, and real property cannot be disposed of by a gift causa mortis.
Possibly with these risks in mind, courts have limited the effectiveness of gifts causa mortis by subject matter and by type of delivery.
Long ago apprehending the situational ambiguity of gifts causa mortis, the Roman jurists guided their formalization more adroitly: Under the Code of Justinian, gifts causa mortis required multiple witnesses.
As already noted, wills functionally resemble gifts causa mortis, and that is especially true of deathbed wills.
Just as they have amalgamated the formalizing rules for gifts causa mortis with ordinary gifts, so have lawmakers in most states consolidated wills causa mortis (so to speak) with ordinary wills.
As a general proposition, contracts causa mortis (again speaking by taxonomic analogy) are treated no differently from other contracts, despite the special evidentiary problems that they present, unless they take the form of contracts to make wills.