Importance of collecting evidence.

In the case of Vallee v Birchwood, the deceased died without leaving a Will.  Prior to his death he spoke with his adopted daughter, and in expectation of death, gave the title deeds to his property, key, photographs and his war medals.

Four months afterwards, the daughter was informed that her father died, and that he had not left a Will, meaning he died intestate.  A claim was registered on the estate by the daughter on the basis that it had been given to her by a donatio mortis causa, namely, a gift which remained conditional until the donor died.

The gaughter’s claim was rejected by the Treasury Solicitor who rejected her claim, and a heir hunting company managed to trace the deceased’s brother who then registered a claim by obtaining letters of administration.  The daughter was successful in presenting a claim, and satified all limbs of the ingredients required of a donatio mortis causa which are summarised as follows;

Nourse LJ in Sen v Headley stated as follows (at 431):

(a)         First, the gift must be made in contemplation, although not necessarily in expectation, of impending death;

(b)         Secondly, the gift must be made upon the condition that it is to be absolute and perfected only on the donor’s death, being revocable until that event occurs and ineffective if it does not;

(c)         Thirdly, there must be a delivery of the subject matter of the gift, or the essential indicia of title thereto, which amounts to a parting with dominion and not mere physical possession over the subject matter of the gift

The deceased’s brother appealed against the decison which was dismissed.

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