As we have learned, a matnat shekhiv mera is a present given by an individual who is on his death bed. Unlike other examples of property transfer where the most basic requirement demands that a formal kinyan – an act of transfer – take place, in the case of matnat shekhiv mera the Sages ruled that no such kinyan is necessary. This rule was established in order to ease the concerns that rest on a dying person who wants to be sure that his will is carried out prior to his death.
Our Gemara discusses a case where in addition to his request that his money be given to others, the shekhiv mera arranged for a formal contract to be written that spelled out what was to be given away. In such a case, Rav argues that the present is certainly a good one since it works on two different levels – both as a normal present (even if he recovers the present is permanent and will not revert back to him) and as a matnat shekhiv mera (and he can even transfer loans that are owed to him, which ordinarily cannot be accomplished without a formal legal act). Shmuel argues, saying that he does not know how to rule in such a case, since the appearance of the contract seems to indicate that he does not want to invoke the matnat shekhiv mera rule, yet ein shtar le-aḥar mitah – a contract cannot take effect after death.
According to the Rashbam and other rishonim, the Gemara’s discussion would be the same whether a contract was written or if some other method of kinyan was used to transfer ownership of the property, and the Gemara used the expression of “writing a contract” only because that is the normal manner to formalize a kinyan. Others suggest, however, that the entire discussion would only apply to a situation where the kinyan was arranged through a written contract.