Document Type

Article

Comments

Classification of Gratuitous Transfers (with Catherine J. Tilson), 51 Yale Law Journal 1 (1941)

Abstract

SOME human actions fit rather neatly into legal categories; many do not. This is as true of attempts to give away property as it is elsewhere. If the appropriate category is obvious, the effect of the donor's actions will be determined in terms of compliance with the requirements specified for that type of transfer. If, for example, a man executes before witnesses a writing expressly described as his last will and testament, the validity of the execution of the document will almost certainly be controlled by the statute of wills. But the inventiveness and variety of inclination of human 'beings often produce situations not readily identifiable in terms of recognized legal patterns. In such cases, the legal classification of the situation is often a vital factor in the reasoning of decisions either sustaining or rejecting the claim of the alleged donee. The court frequently has the choice of placing the case in one of several alternative legal categories, such as will, or gift, or trust, or contract. The legal requirements of these categories differ considerably in form, and the evidence may therefore show compliance with the prescribed formalities of one but not with those of another. It may show a failure to meet the provisions of the statute of wills, but sufficient delivery to support an inter vivos gift. It may show no sufficient delivery, but fulfillment of the specifications of a declaration of trust or a contract. If so, an essential and determinative part of the reasoning of the decision is the court's classification of the situation.

Date of Authorship for this Version

1941

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