My boyfriend and I have been together for a year. During our relationship, he had an old computer lying around in his house that he no longer had any use for. He gave it to me as a birthday gift and I spent over $50 on things for it, plus my family gifted me other things to go with it (desk, keyboard, etc.). He says that if I break up with him, he will demand to get it back. Is he legally allowed to do this? He says that he only gave it to me to "borrow" until I could afford one of my own, but this was never stated before now. If he had told me that was his plan, I would not have agreed to take it, as my circumstances limit me from being able to purchase a computer of my own. We are both minors, but he has a history of being very extreme, so I don't know if he will try to turn it into a legal issue. Any help or advice is greatly appreciated.

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    This should not be closed as a duplicate. The ans to the linkes Q relies on three requirements for an effective gift: donative intent, delivery, and acceptance. Here the intent is denied (afterwards) which is an element not present in the linked Q nor addressed in the linked ans,. Therefore I think this deserves a separate answer. I urge others to vote to reopen this. @Dale M I particularly call on you to reverse your moderator's close vote. Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 1:47
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    @DavidSiegel Because the intent is denied afterwards it is essentially a late change of mind — happened after the property transfer — as opposed to a condition imposed at the time of gifting. I don't think that "what if one later changes their mind?" provides sufficient distinction to questions about property transactions. It should be reasonably obvious that such mind changes make no legal difference.
    – Greendrake
    Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 3:50
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    @Greendrake Note that the giver claims that the lack of donative intent was present at the start. That is a significant difference. You may not credit this claim, and the OP clearly does not. A good answer to this Q would discuss what evidence would tend to establish such a claim, and what evidence would refute it. This issue of intent was not present in the linked question, and so was not addressed in the linked answer. I note that you are the author of the linked answer, as well as the only non-mod who voted to close this. . I still urge reopening this Q. Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 4:08
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    @DavidSiegel "He gave it to me as a birthday gift" trumps all possible claims made thereafter and I think it is reasonably obvious. Essentially, whether a separate question is warranted hinges on how obvious it is for the close/reopen voters.
    – Greendrake
    Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 4:17
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    @Greendrake "he gave it to me as a birthday gift" is one person's claim. "He only gave it to me to 'borrow'" is another's claim. The first claim only trumps the second if it's true. If this were to go to court, the truth of the claim would be in dispute, the resolution depending on the (also disputed) existence of donative intent on the part of the donor (the boyfriend or ex boyfriend). Lorelei Foreman: on a non-legal note, you probably want to be careful about a relationship with someone who tries to use property (or anything) as leverage to keep you from ending the relationship.
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 11:29

1 Answer 1


Generally not. A special body of law applies to engagement rings on the theory that they are contingent upon an expectation of marriage and in some jurisdictions (I haven't checked NYS in particular recently) they are subject to return.

The practical issue is showing who owns property that is not subject to a certificate of title. Usually, the person buying it is the initial owner, but usually an accepted gift is not revocable. The question is whether there was a gift or whether you borrowed the item. Usually, possession is 9/10th of the law and courts aren't a viable way to resolve such a dispute and usually law enforcement won't intervene calling it a "civil dispute."

  • An alternative theory (jmtaxlaw.com/…) is that a minor is legally incompetent, so could not have given the gift in the first place.
    – user6726
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 21:36

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