A gift causa mortis is one that is made in anticipation of imminent death and will take effect upon the death of the donor from the expected disease or illness and may be revoked until the donor’s death. Gifts causa mortis only apply to personal property. However, a gift made in contemplation of suicide generally does not constitute a gift causa mortis.[i] This is because the intention to commit suicide may be abandoned by the person and the concept of suicide is against public policy.[ii].
While sickness or threat of an imminent death is the impetus for a gift causa mortis, a gift in contemplation of suicide is made by a person who is presumed to be physically and mentally fit to take his or her life. Also, “the fact that a statute makes it a felony for a person to advise, encourage, abet, or assist another to commit suicide will not render invalid a gift made in contemplation of suicide to one who does not so advise, encourage, abet, or assist the donor.” [iii]
[i] 38 Am Jur 2d Gifts § 12 Contemplation of suicide
[ii] In re Estate of Stockham, 193 Iowa 823 (Iowa 1922)
[iii] Ray v. Leader Federal Sav. & Loan Asso., 40 Tenn. App. 625 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1953)