GIFT, in English law, means a gratuitous transfer of property. Any person is at lib erty to do what he pleases with his own property, and to give it away with or without consideration, if he is so inclined. When lie gives away goods or chattels, mere deliv ery of possession, accompanied by words of gift, is sufficient to transfer the property; and then the transaction is irrevocable. But if he does not give possession of the goods at the same time, then, in order to be binding upon him, he must execute a deed or writing under seal. The reason of this is, that a mere verbal promise, without some legal consideration, is nugatory and revocable; whereas, when he executes a deed, he is stopped from ever afterwards denying it. Where the property given is not personal, but real, then a deed is in general absolutely necessary to transfer the property. A will is the most familiar example of a gift of property both real and personal, for the testa tor generally, in such a case, gives away his property gratuitously. Each gift at' person alty by will is better known under the name of a legacy; and a gift of land is generally -called a devise.
As sometimes the power of giving away property gratuitously is abused, in order to defraud and defeat creditors, it is provided by statute that a voluntary conveyance, whether of chattels or land, made by a person who is at the time insolvent, shall be void as against such creditors; and they are entitled, accordingly, to recover the property from the donee (13 Eliz. c. 5). The gift, however, even in such a case, stands good against the donor himself. So, if any person give by deed gratuitously any land, and
then sell the same land, the gift will be void against the bona fide purchaser (27Eliz. c. 4).
There is a peculiar kind of gift, or rather a gift made in peculiar circumstances, called a donati,o mortis causa, i.e., a gift made by a person on death-bed of some personal prop erty, such as chattels, money, bills of exchange, etc. Such gifts are held good, if they comply with certain conditions. This is in substance a mode of giving personal chat tels to a particular individual, without the necessity or intervention of a will; but such gifts are so often afterwards disputed, that it is better to include them in a will.
In Scotland, a gift may be made of goods in the same manner as in England; but it is usually called a donation (q.v.). Gratuitous alienations by persons in insolvent cir cumstances are also held to be void as against creditors (stat. 1621, c..18). Though it is competent in Scotland to make a gift of goods or money by merely delivering the pos session thereof, accompanied by words of gift to the donee, still there is this peculiarity, that if the transaction is afterwards impeached, it can only be proved in Scotland by the donor's writ or oath, no matter how many witnesses may have been present; whereas, in England, it can be proved by ordinary witnesses, like any other fact.
Gift, in the law of Scotland, is also often used to denote a grant or appointment the crown or a court, such as gifts of non-entry, escheat, bastardy, tutory, etc.