Inter visos is the legal term referring to a transfer or gift made during one’s lifetime, as opposed to a testamentary transfer, which is a gift that takes effect on death pursuant to a Will.  Inter visos transfers can be an important part of estate planning. 

For an inter visos transfer or gift to be valid, the property must be delivered to the recipient.  Delivery requires transferring the donor’s dominion over the property without power of revocation or retention of dominion over the subject of the gift.  For example, if the donor states the intention to give a valuable item of jewelry to a family member but does not delivery the jewelry to the recipient, a gift has not taken place.  When the person dies, the jewelry will be distributed according to the person’s Will or intestate succession rules if the person dies without a Will.

Ineffectual inter visos gifts often happen when a person executes a Deed to transfer his or real property, but neither records the Deed nor delivers the Deed to the recipient or a third person.  Unless the grantor relinquishes control of the Deed by delivering it to the recipient or a third party, the Deed will be ineffective. 

Practice pointer: If you want certain possessions to be inherited by a particular person, you need to state this intention in your Will.  It is not sufficient to label a possession with the name of the person you want to inherit the property.