Contemplation of death is a phrase used when the thought of imminent death causes a person to transfer his or her property to another. The gift or transfer in such circumstance is called a gift in contemplation of death or a gift causa mortis. In the 1931 United States Supreme Court case of U.S. v. Wells, the Court stated that the most important element of a gift in contemplation of death is the state of mind of the donor. The Court held that contemplation of imminent death is not necessary; it is the mere idea of death itself that can cause a person to transfer property to another. Another aspect of gifts in contemplation of death is that they are included in a person’s gross estate.
[Last updated in June of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]