Like the best laid plans of mice and men, engagements often go awry. Faced with one of life´s least coveted scenarios, a jilted party is compelled to ask “who gets to keep the ring”? This is no trifling issue as these trinkets can represent many thousands of dollars.
To understand this issue one must be armed with an understanding of how the State of Washington legally views a “gift”. An engagement ring is legally considered to be a “gift”. There are two types of “gifts” recognized under the law: conditional and unconditional. These two labels are determinative of the rights of the parties involved. The respective parties themselves are referred to as the “donor” who gives the gift and the “donee” who receives it. There are three conditions that must be fulfilled to qualify an object as a bona fide, unconditional “gift”: (1) the donor must deliver the gift to the donee; (2) the donor must have an actual intent to render the gift to the donee; (3) the donee must accept the gift.
Under the above circumstances the gifting process is completed and cannot be revoked. However, a “conditional” gift includes a fourth element: an explicit condition under which the gift is presumed to have been rendered. The law in the State of Washington is quite clear here: the gifting process is NOT completed until such time as the condition has been fulfilled. Therefore, the gift can be revoked AT ANY TIME prior to performance of the condition.
Courts have traditionally been reluctant to step into the muddied waters of assessing fault for failed relationships. However, the State of Washington has adopted a new wrinkle to this concept by providing some equitable consideration to jilted parties who were effectively prevented from fulfilling their part of the bargain. Simply put: if Jill gets cold feet, the ring reverts back to Jack; if Jack runs off with Little Miss Muffet, Jill gets to keep the ring, and hopefully, a nice little tuffet with some leftover curds and whey as a bonus.
One legal complication warrants a mention here. If the ring had been gifted at Christmas time or on the donee’s birthday or any other traditional gift-giving holiday, a strong argument might be made that the gifted ring was unconditionally given. So, young man, be certain to avoid popping the big question on any of these occasions!
Not all engagements have fairy tale endings, but determining property rights to expensive jewelry after a failed courtship is one of the least complicated legal problems you are likely to encounter. If you are dealing with a recalcitrant ex-fiancé who refuses to surrender the enchanted charm, or is badgering you to surrender it, let us at V. Freitas Law wave our magic legal wand and sprinkle some fairy dust upon them in the form of a court summons with a restraining order attached. You will find us to be among the most benevolent fairy godmothers around. Call us now at (206) 328-7362 to get the process going.