Scherer v. Hyland

75 N.J. 127, 380 A.2d 698 (1977)



While it is true that a gift causa mortis is made by the donor with a view to impending death, death is no less impending because of a resolve to commit suicide. Nor does that fixed purpose constitute any lesser or less imminent peril than does a ravaging disease. Indeed, given the despair sufficient to end it all, the peril attendant upon contemplated suicide may reasonably be viewed as even more imminent than that accompanying many illnesses which prove ultimately to be fatal.


Decedent was injured in an accident, and had received a settlement check. Prior to committing suicide, decedent endorsed the check and left it and a note giving all her property including the check to plaintiff on the kitchen table in the apartment she shared with plaintiff. Trial court granted plaintiff summary judgment holding that decedent had made a valid gift causa mortis to plaintiff. The administrator ad litem of the decedent's estate appealed the decision. 


Was there a valid gift causa mortis?




The court held that even if the note was not testamentary, it was a gift causa mortis because the evidence of donative intent was concrete and undisputed, there was every indication the decedent intended to make a present transfer of the check and she deemed her actions to effect such a transfer. Given a valid constructive delivery, the court held acceptance was implied because the gift was unconditional and beneficial to plaintiff and he did not reject the gift once he learned of it.

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