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Brind v. International Trust Co.

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Maria Brind deposited her jewelry with a note stating if she dies from an imminent surgery, the jewelry was to be given to the individuals listed on the note. Maria did not die from the surgery. Maria’s husband brought suit to replevin the jewelry from International Trust Company, the company Maria deposited her jewelry with, and the individuals specified in the note intervened. The jury found that Maria made a gift to the intervening defendants. Maria’s husband appealed.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    If the donor of a gift causa mortis dies of something other than the illness or peril that he or she feared when making the gift, the gift causa mortis is void.

    Facts.

    International Trust Company held Maria Brind’s, Donor, deposit, which consisted of jewelry and a letter that stated the jewelry was to be given to specified individuals if Donor died from an imminent surgery to remover her tumor. Donor did not die from the operation because the surgeon and Donor decided not to perform the incision that would result in her death. J. Fitz Brind, Donor’s husband, brought this replevin action as administrator of Donor’s estate to recover the jewelry from International Trust Company. Additionally, other individuals Donor indicated in her letter that would recover the jewelry became intervened and, later, became defendants. During trial, there was testimony that indicated Donor returned to International Trust Company after her surgery and stated that she still wanted to give the jewelry to her friends. Further, Donor’s attorney testified that he advised Donor that she may changed the disposition of her jewelry, and Donor indicated that she was uncertain if she would change her mind. The jury found the intervening defendants. Donor’s husband appealed on the grounds that Donor did not make the gift to the intervening defendants.

    Issue.

    Whether a gift causa mortis is still enforceable when the donor of the gift causa mortis dies of something other than the illness or peril that he or she feared when making the gift.

    Held.

    No, gift causa mortis is not enforceable when the donor of the gift causa mortis dies of something other than the illness or peril that he or she feared when making the gift.

    Discussion.

    When a donor does not die from the illness or peril he or she fears when making a gift, the gift causa mortis is incomplete. The three elements of a gift causa mortis are: (1) the gift was made in fear or peril of death or illness, (2) the donor died from that illness he or she feared, and (3) there must be a delivery. Here, Donor indicated that she feared she would die from the impending surgery and made a sufficient delivery by depositing it with the trust company. However, Donor did not die from the surgery, the impending death she feared. Therefore, the gift causa mortis is invalid and the trial court’s judgment is reversed.


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