Egoism and the Return of Charitable Gifts

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The law assumes that all donors are altruistic, when they are not. It assumes that all donors care about the charitable ends to which they give their money, when they do not. In consequence of the law's misconception, judges sometimes proceed to return gifts without a sound legal rationale for doing so. It is argued that where gifts fail, the legal basis of return is that, in analogy with frustrated consumers who have paid for unobtainable goods, donors should get their money back. With reference to altruism and egoism as the concepts are understood in economic donative theory, it will be seen that this legal logic only bites in relation to individuals who genuinely care about the delivery of charitable outcomes. The paper applies warm glow theory, alongside more traditional understandings of economic altruism to the law of failed testamentary gifts.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationModern Studies in Property Law
EditorsR. Hickey, H. Conway
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherHart Publishing
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)9781782257547
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017

Publication series

NameModern Studies in Property Law
PublisherHart Publishing
ISSN (Print)1757-8116


  • warm glow
  • altruism
  • egoism
  • charity law
  • non-profits
  • cy-pres
  • sucession
  • andreoni


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