Gift - Encyclopedia

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GIFT (a common Teutonic word, cf. Ger. die Gift, gift, das Gift, poison, formed from the Teut. stem gab-, to give, cf. Dutch geven, Ger. geben; in O. Eng. the word appears with initial y, the guttural of later English is due to Scandinavian influence), a general English term for a present or thing bestowed, i.e. an alienation of property otherwise than for a legal consideration, although in law it is often used to signify alienation with or without consideration. By analogy the terms "gift" and "gifted" are also used to signify the natural endowment of some special ability, or a miraculous power, in a person, as being not acquired in the ordinary way. The legal effect of a gratuitous gift only need be considered here. Formerly in English law property in land could be conveyed by one person to another by a verbal gift of the estate accompanied by delivery of possession. The Statute of Frauds required all such conveyances to be in writing, and a later statute (8 & 9 Vict. c. 106) requires them to be by deed. Personal property may be effectually transferred from one person to another by a simple verbal gift accompanied by delivery. If A delivers a chattel to B, saying or signifying that he does so by way of gift, the property passes, and the chattel belongs to B. But unless the actual thing is bodily handed over to the donee, the mere verbal expression of the donor's desire or intention has no legal effect whatever. The persons are in the position of parties to an agreement which is void as being without consideration. When the nature of the thing is such that it cannot be bodily handed over, it will be sufficient to put the donee in such a position as to enable him to deal with it as the owner. For example, when goods are in a warehouse, the delivery of the key will make a verbal gift of them effectual; but it seems that part delivery of goods which are capable of actual delivery will not validate a verbal gift of the part undelivered. So when goods are in the possession of a warehouseman, the handing over of a delivery order might, by special custom (but not otherwise, it appears), be sufficient to pass the property in the goods, although delivery of a bill of lading for goods at sea is equivalent to an actual delivery of the goods themselves.

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