Does my boyfriend’s ex have any legal right to the TV that she gave him as a gift?

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Does my boyfriend’s ex have any legal right to the TV that she gave him as a gift?

My boyfriend of almost a year received a TV for a Christmas gift 2 years ago from his then girlfriend. He told her that he would help pay for some of it. She paid with her credit card. He has been making payments on it until now. They broke up a year ago and not once did she ask for or threaten to take the TV back until now. He told her last month that he wasn’t going to pay on her credit card anymore. She said she would take the TV back if he stopped paying. The TV has been in his possession the entire time (they never lived together) and he also has the receipt for it. Does she have any claim to the TV?

Asked on October 24, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Arkansas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Legally, if the TV was an unconditional gift, the giver has no right to get it back: once something is gifted, it belongs to the recipient, not the giver.

However, sometime something is not an unconditional gift. It could be a gift with strings attached (e.g. you can use my TV as along as we're together). It would be a loan of money (I'll front the money to buy the TV, then you repay some or all of it--whatever amount is agreed to). It could be a joint purchase (two people each pay part of the cost, and each then have an ownership interest). From whaht you write, if it was supposedly a gift, but your boyfriend was making payments on it, it *might* not have actually been an unconditional gift--at the least, the facts as described are somewhat muddy.

As a practical matter, if the TV is in his possession and he has the receipt, to get it back, she'd have to sue him, then prove in court that under the terms of the agreement made when the TV was purchased, she has a right to get it back. Your boyfriend could wait to see if she tries to sue him for the TV, then decide whether its worth fighting or better to just let her have it.


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