1902 Encyclopedia > Gift


GIFT generally means an alienation of property other-wise than for a consideration, although in law it is often used to signify alienation with or without consideration. The effect of a gratuitous gift only need be considered here. Formerly in English law property in land could be conveyed by one person to another by a verbal gift of the estate accompanied by delivery of possession. The Statute of Frauds required all such conveyances to be in writing, and a later statute (8 and 9 Vict. c. 106) requires them to be by deed. Personal property may be effectually transferred from one person to another by a simple verbal gift accom-panied by delivery. If A delivers a chattel to B, saying or signifying that he does so by way of gift, the property passes, and the chattel belongs to B. But unless the actual thing is bodily handed over to the donee, the mere verbal expression of the donor's desire or intention has no legal effect whatever. The persons are in the position of parties to an agreement which is void, as being without considera-tion. When the nature of the thing is such that it cannot be bodily handed over, it will be sufficient to put the donee in such a position as to enable him to deal with it as the owner. For example, when goods are in a warehouse, the delivery of the key will make a verbal gift of them effectual; but it seems that part delivery of goods which are capable of actual delivery will not validate a verbal gift of the part undelivered. So when goods are in the possession of a warehouseman, the handing over of a delivery order might, by special custom (but not otherwise it appears), be sufficient to pass the property in the goods, although delivery of a bill of lading for goods at sea is equivalent to an actual delivery of the goods themselves. A donatio mortis causa is a gift made by a person in contemplation of death, to take effect only in the event of his death. It is revocable so long as he lives. There must be actual or constructive delivery of the thing itself, and therefore it has been said that only chattels can be the proper subject of a donatio mortis causa, although policies of insurance, bills, notes, &c, have been allowed to pass by mere delivery as death-bed gifts. A donatio mortis causa is not an out-and-out gift, but is conditional on death.

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