My mother has been dead for a couple of years now and upon her death I received her butterfly ring and her ashes. I had given her ring to a family friend who was like a mother to mine, but unfortunately I may have to cut contact with her. Is there a way for me to get my mothers ring back? I was unaware she had several things from my mom and I had foolishly given it too her, while all I have to remember my mom is three photos and a name tag from her last job.
Sarah, thanks for your question. You have asked this on the Legal forum; and whilst there might be many moral or ethical considerations surrounding your situation - I'll try to deal with the legal principles here - which are distinct from what people consider 'fair' in the common sense of the word - simply discussing the legal basis of what you are asking.
The relevant law here is 'Gifting' under the Law of Property - here
A gift, in the law of property, is the voluntary transfer of property from one person (the donor or grantor) to another (the donee or grantee) without full valuable consideration. In order for a gift to be legally effective, three requirements must be met:
- Intention of donor to give the gift to the donee (donative intent)
- Delivery of gift to donee.
- Acceptance of gift by donee.
Gifts are generally considered by the court to be either 'outright, remunerative or onerous' - so there can be conditions placed on the acceptance/receipt of a gift. However, it doesn't sound like these apply and that you have given this gift, free of conditions to the donee.
There are special legal considerations with respect to engagement rings between would-be spouses where the donee actually typically keeps an engagement ring even if they fail to get married. This is under revocation.
Unfortunately, from a strict legal point of view - a gift, is a gift - which broadly speaking means that if the person is not willing to return the gift, they are under no strict duty to do so.
One can sue for return of the gift if undue influence was exerted over the donor by the donee:
There are two main forms of conduct that are unacceptable:
- Acts of improper pressure or coercion such as unlawful threats. In the case of Etridge the judge made it clear that the court will intervene to set aside a transaction which is the product of “excessive pressure, emotional blackmail or bullying”.
- Failure to perform an equitable duty; g. where A trusts B and B takes unfair advantage of A.
It would ultimately be for first, your solicitor and secondarily a court (or similar) to decide whether you had a legal case based on any undue influence you may have been under, based on the situation which you did not know that she had other items of your mother, leading you to gift her the ring. This is very context dependent. This legal process would be under a civil action against the donee. Of interest, the supreme court have limited the scope of 'undue influence'; the technical details can be seen here.
I hope this is helpful.
One could imagine a woman giving a ring to a girl going off to college. Then later, the woman asks for it back saying that it was her mother’s ring and obviously it was just given to use temporarily so that the girl would make a good impression with her classmates (maybe the girl didn’t have good jewelry of her own) and not to keep.
But it sounds like you (1) knew that you gave her the ring, and (2) its significance, and that (3) you intended her to actually own it and keep it. And even without you telling us this, her having it for years makes it seem that way.