Sen v Headley: CA 28 Feb 1991

D, who was in hospital and near death, said to R (his former partner): ‘The house is yours, Margaret. You have the keys. They are in your bag. The deeds are in the steel box.’ After D’s death R discovered that D had put had put into her bag the only key to a steel box holding the deeds.
Held: On these facts that D had made a valid dontio mortis causa of his house to R. As a policy donatio mortis cause is an anomaly in English law for two reasons. First, it was immune to the Statute of Frauds 1677 and the Wills Act 1837. Secondly, it was an exception to the rule that there was no equity to perfect an imperfect gift.
Nourse LJ conducted an extensive review of the authorities, noting that D must make the gift in contemplation of impending death. He noted that the gift must be conditional upon death. Thirdly, there must be a delivery of the subject matter of the gift, which amounted to a parting with dominion. In giving R the keys to the box holding the deeds, D had parted with dominion over his house. Accordingly, all the elements of the doctrine were satisfied.

Purchas, Nourse, Leggatt LJJ
[1991] EWCA Civ 13, [1991] Ch 425
England and Wales
CitedTate, Mary v Hilbert Tate, Jane v Hilbert 22-Apr-1793
‘Mortis causa donatio est, quae propter mortis fit suspicionem etc. …’, . .
CitedBirch v Treasury Solicitor CA 1950
There had been donationes mortis causa of the money standing in four accounts, by the delivery of a Post Office Savings Bank book and three other bank books of various descriptions. Lord Evershed MR stated: ‘the courts will examine any case of . .
CitedWard v Turner 20-Jul-1752
In the doctrine of donation mortis causa, the necessity for a delivery in every case and the acts sufficient for that purpose are developments of English law. . .
CitedIn Re Craven’s Estate ChD 1937
D was about to undergo an operation which might prove fatal. D gave a power of attorney to R (her son). She told R that she wanted him to have certain shares and monies in her bank account if she died. R notified the bank, which responded that it . .
CitedThomas Duffield, And Emily Frances His Wife v Elwes, Chambers, Hicks And others PC 1827
. .
CitedSnellgrove v Baily 11-Mar-1744
A bond for pounds 100 was given by one Spackman to Sarah Baily, who delivered it to the defendant, saying: ‘In case I die, it is yours, and then you have something.’ Sarah Baily having died, the administrator of her estate sued unsuccessfully to . .
CitedGardner v Parker And Others 28-Apr-1818
Leach V-C. made a declaration that the donee of a bond by way of donatio mortis causa, on indemnifying the donor’s executors, was at liberty to sue on the bond in their names. He said that Snellqrove v. Baily had established: ‘that there may be a . .
CitedCain v Moon QBD 9-May-1896
The rule that delivery of a chattel is essential in order to constitute a valid donatio mortis causa is satisfied by an antecedent delivery of the chattel alio intuitu to the donee. . .
CitedHawkins v Blewitt 1798
Lord Kenyon CJ said: ‘In the case of a donatio mortis causa, possession must be immediately given. That has been done here; a delivery has taken place; but it is also necessary that by parting with the possession, the deceased should also part with . .
CitedReddel v Dobree 22-Jul-1839
The donor gave . .
CitedMoore v Darton 13-Jun-1851
Donations mortis causa are not abolished by the Wills Act. There had been a valid donatio mortis causa of a debt of C500 by delivery of a receipt signed by the debtor stating that the debt was to bear interest at a specified rate. . .
CitedIn re Dilllon; Duffin v Duffin CA 14-Feb-1890
A testator who held a banker’s deposit note for pounds 580, in his last illness and very shortly before his death, took out the note, filled in and signed upon a stamp a form of cheque indorsed on the note, ‘ pay self or bearer pounds 580 and . .
CitedWilkes v Allington 1931
. .
CitedGissing v Gissing HL 7-Jul-1970
Evidence Needed to Share Benefical Inerests
The family home had been purchased during the marriage in the name of the husband only. The wife asserted that she had a beneficial interest in it.
Held: The principles apply to any case where a beneficial interest in land is claimed by a . .

Cited by:
CitedKing v The Chiltern Dog Rescue and Another CA 9-Jun-2015
This is an appeal by charities who are entitled to inherit under a will against a decision that (a) the deceased transferred her house to her nephew by a donatio mortis causa, alternatively (b) the nephew is entitled to recover 75,000 pounds against . .
CitedKing v Dubrey and Others ChD 1-Jul-2014
The claimant said that before her death, the now deceased testator had handed the deeds of the house to him saying that she was giving the house to him. He said it was a donatio mortis causa gift. . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Wills and Probate

Leading Case

Updated: 25 November 2021; Ref: scu.262630