Friday, February 10, 2012

Foster v. Reiss case brief

Foster v. Reiss

Decedent wrote a note prior to death which directed her husband to certain money, a savings account and shares in a building and loan association. The husband would not have received the property under the decedent’s will and the Plaintiffs, those responsible for carrying out the will, sued the husband to recover the property.

-Does the Decedent’s note constitute a valid gift causa mortis of the property described therein to the Defendant?

-The Court noted the historical definition of the doctrine of donatio causa mortis and stated that the doctrine was based on certain elements which must be established to validate such a purported gift.
-Here there was no delivery of the items in the note. The donor’s intent was established, but not the requirement of actual delivery.
-Court also found that the note failed to authorize the D to take possession of the chattels mentioned therein due to the fact that Decedent was under the influence of ether and unconscious at the time the Defendant took the note from the drawer in the hospital room. Thus, the Decedent lacked capacity to grant such authority.

-Delivery from an agent to a donee = valid gift.  Can argue physical delivery here.  
-Reiss as agent delivering to donee (himself), acting on behalf of the donor.
-The principal must be competent.  Agency relationship is terminated if not competent.
-Doctrine of gift causa mortis is subject to strict requirements, including delivery, which are necessary to limit the application of the doctrine due to the fact that it intrudes on the statute of wills.
-The elements of a gift causa mortis are: 1. The gift must be made in light of the impending death of the donor; 2. The donor must die of the peril or disorder which creates the basis for impending death; 3. There must be delivery of the thing given; 4. The donor must be competent to make the gift; 5. There must be an intent on the part of the donor to make the gift; 6. There must be acceptance by the donee.

-Here there was no delivery because he didn’t know where the goods were.
-Causa Mortis does not comply with wills (courts do not like them).

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