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What's a death bed gift and are they valid?

What's a death bed gift and are they valid?
Terry Sharpe Oct 16,2020
blog post

The usual procedure for making a will is set out in the Wills Act 1837 which requires that in order for a will to be valid it must be:


  • In writing;
  • Signed by the testator, or by another person in their presence and by their direction; and
  • Signed (or the signature acknowledged by the testator) in the presence of two or more independent witnesses, who are present at the same time and who must also attest and sign the Will.


However sometimes it’s not possible to make a last minute will or people decide in their last hours that they would like to make a gift. This is known as ‘Donatio Mortis Causa’ which is essentially a gift given by someone expecting or contemplating death and is more commonly referred to as a death bed gift.

In order for a death bed gift to be valid and to override the requirements of the Wills Act 1837 the gift must meet the following requirements:


  • the maker of the gift was contemplating their impending death when the gift was made;
  • the maker of the gift intended that the gift would only take effect if and when their death occurred and that otherwise it could be revoked;
  • the maker of the gift delivered the gift to the recipient (by handing over the deeds to a property for example); and
  • the maker of the gift had capacity to do so.