Suppose that I unconditionally and unambiguously give a person a thing such as a necklace with a moderate value (say $1000): I hand it to them and say "Here, you can have this, I don't need it anymore". Then suppose I have giver's remorse and the next day I request that it be returned. Assuming that the recipient has not relied on the fact of me giving it to them (all they would lose is the necklace), can I revoke the act of giving (so that the courts would order the return of the gift)?

Then, suppose that I intended to give necklace A but mistakenly gave necklace B which I did not intend to give: can I legally reclaim B? In case it's not clear, I am not asking how I can guarantee a take-back right prior to giving the thing, so agreements are irrelevant. As always, relevant citations appreciated.

2 Answers 2



By handing the necklace the way you described, you commit personal property transfer as all the three requirements are met for the gift to be legally effective: donative intent, delivery and acceptance.

Once property has been transferred (no matter gift or sale), it is not yours anymore.

  • 2
    A caveat is that if the donor didn't have the authority to make the unconditional gift, for example, because the gift rendered the donor insolvent, a third party creditor could have the gift set aside as a fraudulent transfer and force the donee to return it and pay it over to the creditor even if the donee was entirely blameless. But the donor couldn't invoke that right personally.
    – ohwilleke
    Nov 27, 2017 at 3:58
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    @ohwilleke or, of course, if the giver didn’t own the gift the actual owner could claim it. Again, the giver has no right to it.
    – Dale M
    Mar 29, 2021 at 10:30
  • @DaleM Of course. Almost goes without saying.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 31, 2021 at 22:01
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    FWIW, there is also a common law exception in many places for engagement rings given as gifts in contemplation of marriage, if the engagement is broken off.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 31, 2021 at 22:02

Since a question with slightly different details has been closed as a duplicate of this, I think it is neccessary to add some basics that weren't present in the original question:

A gift is basically a pretty one-sided contract. Once the deal is closed, it cannot be undone, unless specified otherwise. The other answer does a good job of explaining that.

But anything that will void and/or invalidate a contract in your juristiction, will very likely do the same thing for a gift.

For example, a minor might be allowed to void any of their contracts. So for example if your kid comes home with a brand new bike and says "oh, Alice gave it to me for free, it was a gift" be prepared for Alice's parents to show up and request the bike back, even if Alice totally meant it to be a gift.

Another example are people with mental problems, that have legal guardians appointed and cannot enter into contracts on their own. If they give something away as a gift, it might not be legally valid without approval of their legal guardian.

And last but not least, obviously giving something away that isn't yours to begin with is not a legally valid gift and doesn't mean the receiver can keep it. If you get gifted a stolen car, it still remains stolen property and you don't get to keep it.

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