Principles of Law
(Gifts In Contemplation of Death)
The phrase “Donatio mortis Causa means gifts in completion in death. It refers to a situation where a person who is in danger of death as a result of illness or some imminent danger transfers property to another person without going through the normal process of transfer of document of tittle (ownership)
The law recognizes that such transfer in contemplation of death are valid and binding provided they satisfy certain requirements. These requirements are summarized as follows:
- Contemplation of Death; For the gift to be valid, the person making it (donor) must be contemplating the possibility of his death either from some illness or real and imminent danger.
- Movable property; the gift is valid and binding only if it is in the form of movable properties. It therefore follows that immovable properties like land/building cannot be subject matter of such a gift.
- Donee to survive donor; for the gift to be binding and enforceable, the donee/ beneficiary of the gift must survive the donor. If the done dies before the donor , the gift is invalid and it reverts to the donor.
- Delivery of gift; The gift is valid only if donor delivered its possession and custody to the done. Such delivery may be in form of actual/symbolic delivery.
- Intention of donor; the intention of the person making the gift should be that if he survives danger or illness, he has the right to claim the gift from the donee at any time. This is because the gift is valid only at the death of the donor.
It is important to note that no gift in contemplation of death is valid if the donor dies as a result of suicide.