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.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
There is a paucity of cases concerning whether gifts causa mortis are included as part of the "estate" subject to the spouse's elective share.
Atkinson specifies some other differences between a will and a gift causa mortis. Id.
Because they are revocable and take effect on the brink of death, gifts causa mortis are frequently compared to wills.
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.
Without reconfiguring the categories, each one would remain technically isolated, so that rulings on, say, the meaning of a "near death" transfer within the law of gifts causa mortis would fail to pertain to nuncupative wills.
Taking into account the fact that the partible inheritance defends the heirs who are entitled to a portion of an inheritance not only against testamentary provisions causa mortis (legacy and disinheritance) that the disposer can do, but also against the donations that he made during his life, to the estate that will be calculated the partable inheritance there will also be brought the donations.