QUITE THE SPIRIT OF THE SEASON - By Gordon R. MacKenzie
Frankly dear old St. Nicholas could promise the world to every child
on the planet and never have to worry for a minute about delivering.
The law, you see, will not enforce an incomplete gift.
Before marrying, Barbara Sanderson promised her fiancÚ that she
would make him the beneficiary of her two life insurance policies.
She sent the necessary forms to her mother, the original beneficiary,
to release her interest. Her mother forgot about the forms until
shortly after the marriage on February 6, 1965. When she returned
them to Mrs. Sanderson, they were not properly witnessed.
Mrs. Sanderson died in a auto accident on April 5, 1965, before
new forms were signed. When Mr. Sanderson contacted his mother-in-law
about the insurance money, she refused to pay it to him. He sued,
arguing that his late wife meant to make him a gift of the insurance
proceeds (Sanderson v. Halstead, 1968).
The court decided although Mrs. Sanderson wanted to make a gift
of the proceeds, she had not taken all the steps necessary to make
Mr. Sanderson the rightful owner of them. The court had no authority
to complete an imperfect gift and would not force his mother-in-law
to pay the insurance money to Mr. Sanderson.
What a court can do and what we are morally obliged to do may not
be the same; Mr. Sanderson's mother-in-law got to keep the money,
but I doubt her conscience was clear.
This article is presented as general information only and is
not to be relied on as legal advice. You should contact your lawyer
to see how the law applies to your circumstances before any action