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In re Van Wormer’s Estate Case Brief

Summary of In re Van Wormer’s Estate, 255 Mich. 399 (1931)

Facts: The terms of a divorce btwn Clyde and Clara Wormer were that Clyde transferred a substantial amount of property and custody of their two children to Clara.  A week later he moved to his mother’s house.  Two weeks later he put $3200 worth of stock into his brother’s name, and it was deposited as collateral for a loan of $3600.  The same day Clyde executed his will, leaving all his property to his children and made his brother the executor.  Two weeks later he gave his mother a certificate of deposit totaling $2916.50, retained $1500 and left for California.  A month later he committed suicide.

Issue: Whether the stocks and the certificate of deposit were causa mortis gifts?

Holding: Yes.

Procedure: The probate ct held that the stock was a gift in causa mortis, but the certificate of deposit was not, the circuit ct affirmed; the MI Sup. Ct. affirmed.

Law: A gift made causa mortis is valid only if it appears from the record that at the time of the transaction the donor believed he was suffering from a an affliction from which he might not recover and from which in fact he did not.  Actual or constructive delivery is essential to validity of gift inter vivos or causa mortis.

Rationale: It is not essential that the donor be in extremis and that death is certain, it is sufficient if he is apprehensive of death from a present malady or imminent peril. There is ample testimony in this record to sustain the circuit court’s finding that the deceased, at the time of the gift, was suffering from a mental breakdown, and acute pains and agonies which continued until the time of his death by suicide.  Mr. Van Wormer caused the certificate of stock to be issued in his brother’s name, who in turn deposited it in the bank.  This constituted delivery sufficient for gift causa mortis.  There is evidence to support that Clara, as appellant, waived the statutory prohibition against testimony regarding matters equally within knowledge of deceased by cross examining the executor regarding matters equally within the knowledge of the deceased.

Pl A: (executor/appellee)–At the time the gifts were made by the testator, they were made in causa mortis.

Df A: (appellant)–the $3200 investment in the certificate of stock and the $500 profit made from the investment should be counted as part of the estate and divided therefrom.



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