Introduction to Gifts

Fred Antenberg, Columbia/Howard County Family Law Attorney has over thirty years’ of legal experience in Family Law and has successfully represented persons who had issues with Gifts.

If you are either the person who gave the gift or was the recipient of a gift, understanding of the applicable laws and their beneficial results often can be achieved by having me represent you. It is not unusual for clients to have a little knowledge of the law or a misunderstanding of the law. Unfortunately, because a lack of knowledge of the law, people will lose out when they could have benefited from consulting with me and retaining me to assert their rights.

Many times after filing suit, both my clients and I have been very pleased at the outcomes.

Normally we first write a letter demanding return of the gift. In one instance, we did not have the address of the receiver of a conditional gift because the receiver lived in a gated community so I called the receiver of the gift. The recipient hung up on me but the following day, presumably after the receiver consulted with a law firm, she called my office and agreed to return the conditional gift. That gift happened to be an engagement ring. A conditional gift may come from someone other than parties in a relationship. It may be in the form of a down payment to purchase a home given by future in-laws or it may be in the form of the payment of the recipient’s debts. Some of these cases involve conditional gifts that are verbal without any written documentation. Under what is called the Statute of Frauds, one of the requirements is that a conditional gift must be in writing if it will take a year or more to be performed. There is one exception called “part performance” that may take the conditional gift out of the Statute of Frauds. We utilized that legal exception in a recent case where our client agreed to have her boyfriend hold title to a purchased vehicle and she made all of the payments but he refused to transfer the title back to her as promised. Many of these cases involve what are called Constructive or Resulting Trusts which apply equitable principles that will prevent unjust enrichment to the receiver.

Gifts have many forms and it is the intent of the giver that often rules the outcome. There are three major elements of a gift and they are:

  • Intent
  • Delivery
  • Acceptance

All must occur, otherwise, the gift will fail. Some gifts are implied, such as conditional gifts. The simplest example of a conditional gift is an engagement ring that is given in contemplation of marriage. However, if you give the engagement ring on Valentine’s Day or on the receiver’s/ recipient’s birthday, then it is likely that the courts will consider it to be an absolute gift without the condition of marriage. Even though the act had the appearance of being an act preformed in contemplation of marriage, the courts will consider the event of Valentine’s Day to avoid the notion of “ in contemplation of marriage”.

The articles under this topic area “Gifts” cover a wide range of subtopics. Your factual situation may not be covered in those articles and that is the very reason to contact me so I can examine your facts. I can review your individual factual situation and advise you whether the law enables you to go forward and seek recovery of a conditional gift or to seek an action based on unfair or unjust enrichment.

From my office in Columbia, Maryland, I have represented clients in Central Maryland and throughout the State of Maryland for over 30 years in the area of Family Law, including cases involving gifts, but also in other areas of law such as Criminal, Traffic, Wills and Estates.

Although I am licensed to practice law only in Maryland, I can refer you to reputable lawyers in other localities through my membership in a local Rotary Club which is part of the worldwide Rotary International.

I look forward to hearing from you. Call me, Fredric G. Antenberg, at 410 730 4404.