Title transfer of property not a gift (i.e. , “I never promised you a rose garden.”)

September 1, 2006 | Roger McEowen

To constitute a gift, the donor (person making the gift) must intend to make a gift, deliver the gifted property to the donee (recipient of the gifted property), and the donee must accept the gift. Also, when circumstances are uncertain, the donor’s intent controls. Here, the plaintiff received an inheritance and used some of it to purchase a tract of real estate, but placed title to the property in his girlfriend’s name because he was unsure whether a settlement of an outstanding child support obligation barred his former wife from getting a lien for the pre-settlement balance. The plaintiff told his girlfriend of this rationale, and testified that she “seemed to understand. ”  The plaintiff also testified that he never promised the girlfriend that the tract would be hers forever, and that he expected that the property would be transferred back to him at some point in time. The plaintiff also continued to live on the property, maintained it, stored items for his construction business on the property. The girlfriend paid the taxes on the property with funds from the plaintiff.

The court held that no gift occurred. There was no intent to make a gift, and the girlfriend was never allowed to exercise control over the property. The court ordered title to be quieted in the plaintiff’s name. Wielenga v. Lively, No. 6-376/05-1279, 2006 Iowa App. LEXIS 1010 (Iowa Ct. App. Aug. 23, 2006).