When you name someone as a beneficiary of your last will and testament, you are effectively making a gift to that person (conditional on your death). A testamentary gift can take the form of cash, property, or even forgiveness of an outstanding debt. For example, if you loaned your child $10,000 during your lifetime, you may include a clause in your will canceling the loan, thereby absolving her of any legal duty to repay your estate.
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California law defines a gift as “a transfer of personal property, made voluntarily, and without consideration.” If you plan to forgive a debt as part of your estate plan, it is important to do so expressly in writing. California does not recognize “verbal” gifts “unless there is an actual or symbolical delivery of the thing to the donee.”