When Is A Lifetime Gift Legally Binding In Florida?
Not everyone waits until they die to leave a gift or inheritance to a loved one. Many people choose to make inter vivos gifts, or transfers of property during their lifetime. Such gifts are legally binding on the donor–and their future estates–provided there was “donative intent” and the gift was actually delivered to the recipient.
Florida Appeals Court Rules Mother Completed Transfer of Condo Title to Son Despite Misplaced Certificate
A recent decision from the Florida Third District Court of Appeal, Ordway v. Karibu Properties, Inc., illustrates the types of legal issues that can arise over a disputed inter vivos gift. This particular case involved a dispute between the estates of two deceased persons, a mother and son, over the ownership of a condominium.
For the sake of clarity, we will refer to the parties by their first names. Elinka was the mother of Alexander. Alexander married Isabel in 2002. In 2003, Elinka provided the funds to purchase a condominium where Alexander lived with Isabel and their children. Elinka created a separate company, known as Karibu I, to hold title to the condominium, with her serving as sole director. Three years later, in 2006, Alexander incorporated Karibu II.
Elinka’s intent was to transfer title to the condo from her Karibu I company to Alexander’s Karibu II company. This was meant to be a gift from Elinka to Alexander. But there was a snafu with the paperwork. Essentially, Elinka had her attorney prepare a certificate issuing Karibu I stock to Karibu II. But somehow that certificate got misplaced and she never remembered to sign it. The attorney prepared a new certificate, but before Elinka signed that one, Alexander died unexpectedly. Elinka then voided both the original and replacement stock certificates.
But Isabel, Alexander’s widow, later claimed that she found the first certificate, which had in fact been signed by Elinka. This led to litigation after Elinka also died. Elinka’s estate claimed it still held title to the condo through Elinka’s ownership in Karibu I and wanted to eject Isabel from the property. Isabel argued that Karibu I no longer legally owned the condo when Elinka died, as she had completed the transfer to Karibu II, which Alexander controlled.
The Third District ultimately found Isobel was correct. Although the trial court had ruled in favor of Eilnka’s estate based on the misplaced stock certificate, the appeals court said a technical failure to comply with such corporate formalities did not render Elinka’s original gift void. Indeed, neither side disputed it was Elinka’s intent to give the shares of Karibu I–and thus title to the condo–to Alexander and Karibu II. And as noted above, Isabel did later find the signed certificate among her husband’s papers. The Third District said that was sufficient to “complete” the gift under Florida law.
Speak with a Florida Probate Litigation Lawyer Today
Disagreements over property ownership often lead to litigation. If you are involved in such a dispute and need legal advice from a qualified Pompano Beach beneficiary disputes attorney, contact the offices of Mark R. Manceri, P.A., today.