mortmain

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mortmain

Literally means “dead hand.”Originally referred to statutes passed in England in 1279 and 1290 to prevent transfers of property to the Church, which would keep the land in its “dead hand” forever and prevent the king from ever realizing any tax income from it. In modern times, mortmain statutes invalidated deathbed gifts to charities, upon the theory that the recipient may have been guilty of undue influence by promises of a rosy hereafter, making the gift suspicious. Today, most such statutes have been repealed. (Unhappy heirs wishing to contest last-minute charitable gifts may use the general theory of undue influence to make their case.)