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Pastor, Church & Law

written by Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA

Limitations on Charitable Giving

Volume 4 . Chapter 9 . § 9-03
Key point 9-03. Historically, several states had laws limiting the right of persons to leave gifts to religious organizations within a specified time prior to their death. In recent years, these laws have been struck down by the courts in nearly all states.

In the past, several states had laws limiting the right of persons to leave property to religious organizations by a will or deed executed within a specified period prior to death. The purpose of such laws (often called "mortmain" laws) was to prevent "deathbed" gifts to religious organizations by persons who might be unduly influenced by religious considerations. The California Supreme Court explained the purpose of an early state mortmain law as follows: "It is that a man's fears or superstition, ...

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