Gift Causa Mortis


When it comes to estate planning, there are various legal tools and strategies available to individuals to ensure their assets are distributed according to their wishes. One such tool is the concept of “Gift Causa Mortis.” This Latin term refers to a gift made in contemplation of death, where the donor intends for the gift to take effect only if they pass away. In this article, we will explore the intricacies of Gift Causa Mortis, its legal requirements, and its implications for both donors and recipients.

Understanding Gift Causa Mortis

Gift Causa Mortis is a unique legal concept that allows individuals to make gifts of personal property with the condition that the gift will only take effect if the donor dies. Unlike traditional gifts, which are effective immediately upon delivery, a gift causa mortis only becomes valid upon the donor's death. This legal tool provides a way for individuals to transfer assets outside of the probate process and ensure their intended beneficiaries receive the gifts.

For a gift to be considered causa mortis, certain legal requirements must be met:

  • The donor must have a present intention to make the gift.
  • The donor must make the gift in contemplation of their impending death.
  • The donor must deliver the gift to the recipient.
  • The donor must die as a result of the contemplated peril.

It is important to note that the donor must have a reasonable expectation of death at the time of making the gift. If the donor recovers from the contemplated peril, the gift becomes void, and the property reverts back to the donor.

Examples of Gift Causa Mortis

Let's consider a few examples to better understand how Gift Causa Mortis works:

Example 1: John, an elderly man, is diagnosed with a terminal illness. In anticipation of his impending death, he decides to gift his vintage car to his nephew, Peter. John explicitly states that the gift is only effective if he passes away. John delivers the car keys to Peter, who keeps them safe. Unfortunately, John's condition worsens, and he passes away a few weeks later. As a result, Peter becomes the rightful owner of the vintage car.

Example 2: Sarah, a young woman, is involved in a serious accident and is uncertain about her chances of survival. She decides to gift her valuable jewelry collection to her best friend, Emily, in case she does not make it. Sarah hands over the jewelry to Emily, who agrees to keep it safe until the outcome of Sarah's condition is known. Fortunately, Sarah recovers from her injuries, rendering the gift causa mortis void, and the jewelry is returned to her.

Implications for Donors and Recipients

Gift Causa Mortis can have significant implications for both donors and recipients:

For Donors

1. Avoiding Probate: By making a gift causa mortis, donors can bypass the probate process, which can be time-consuming and costly. This allows for a more efficient transfer of assets to the intended beneficiaries.

2. Flexibility: Donors have the flexibility to revoke or modify the gift at any time before their death, as long as they have not delivered the gift to the recipient. This provides donors with the ability to adapt their estate plans as circumstances change.

For Recipients

1. Priority: If a gift causa mortis is valid, the recipient has priority over other potential beneficiaries. This means that even if the donor's will or other estate planning documents state otherwise, the recipient of the gift causa mortis will still receive the property.

2. Tax Implications: Depending on the jurisdiction, gifts causa mortis may be subject to gift or inheritance taxes. Recipients should consult with a tax professional to understand the potential tax implications of receiving such a gift.


Gift Causa Mortis provides individuals with a unique legal tool to transfer assets in contemplation of their impending death. By meeting the legal requirements and delivering the gift to the recipient, donors can ensure their intended beneficiaries receive the property outside of the probate process. For donors, this means avoiding probate and maintaining flexibility in their estate plans. Recipients, on the other hand, benefit from the priority status and should be aware of any potential tax implications. Understanding the intricacies of Gift Causa Mortis can empower individuals to make informed decisions when it comes to their estate planning and asset distribution.

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