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Gruen v. Gruen

Law Dictionary

Law Dictionary

Featuring Black's Law Dictionary 2nd Ed.
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Property Law Keyed to Cribbet

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 68 N.Y.2d 48, 505 N.Y.S.2d 849, 496 N.E.2d 869 (1986)

Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff claims ownership of a valuable painting through a birthday letter from his father which stated that the father intended to give the painting to the Plaintiff, but would like to keep the painting until his death.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. As long as there is evidence presented that establishes the intent of a donor to make a present and irrevocable transfer of the property in question, there is some transfer of interest, and the gift is effective immediately.

Facts. Plaintiff received a letter on his birthday from his father, decedent, which stated that the decedent was giving a painting called “Schloss Kammer am Attersee II,” by Gustav Klimt, to the Plaintiff, but that decedent desired to retain possession of the painting during his lifetime. Plaintiff did not seek to gain possession of the painting during the decedent’s life, respecting his father’s wishes. Decedent passed away on February 14, 1980. Plaintiff then requested the painting from Defendant, Plaintiff’s stepmother, who refused to give the painting to Plaintiff. Plaintiff then instituted this action. The trial court found for the Defendant. The intermediate appellate court found for the Plaintiff, and remanded the case to the trial court which subsequently awarded $2,500,000 to Plaintiff as damages for the value of the painting plus interest. Defendant appealed directly to the Court of Appeals.

Issue. May an inter vivos gift of a chattel be made which reserves a life estate in the donor, where the donee never has physical possession of the chattel?

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