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Supreme Court of New South Wales

When there is anticipation of death, often there are small awards of gifts provided to relatives or friends. The more expensive the gift, the more the question arises as to the legal validity of the person’s generosity. In some instances, such as the above case, there may even need to be court proceedings to claim ownership of the gift, postmortem.


Mr Gibson passed away in 2001, without leaving a will. Prior to his death, Mr Gibson became close friends with Ms Hobbes whom assisted him with his household duties. Mr Gibson provided her with the passbook to his bank account, a card with details of his Term Deposit and the keys and rates notice to his unit at Dulwich Hill prior to death. There question arose as to the gifts being legally valid.

At Court

For the gifts to be considered valid there must have been three components fulfilled:

  1. a foresight of death prior;
  2. an intentional handing over of ownership through essential titles of the assets;
  3. and an understanding that the gifts are conditional on being provided upon death.


Provided that 1) and 3) were met: the court found that the handing over of the passbook to the savings account, and the card with details of the term deposit was sufficient to constitute an essential item to provide title to the asset.

However, the keys and the council rate notice were not seen as adequate to be a handing over of title and were therefore ruled out of the gifts provided to Ms Hobbes.

 If you would like to discuss this topic further, you should contact Kerstin Glomb on 8806 7421.