A gift, in the law of property, is the voluntary transfer of property from one person (the donor or grantor) to another (the donee or grantee) without full valuable consideration. In order for a gift to be legally effective, three requirements must be met:
Intention of donor to give the gift to the donee (donative intent)
Delivery of gift to donee.
Acceptance of gift by donee.
The donor of the gift must have a present intent to make a gift of the property to the donee. A promise to make a gift in the future is unenforceable, and legally meaningless, even if the promise is accompanied by a present transfer of the physical property in question.
Suppose, for example, that a man gives a woman a ring and tells her that it is for her next birthday and to hold on to it until then. The man has not made a gift, and could legally demand the ring back at any time before the woman’s birthday. In contrast, suppose a man gives a woman a deed and tells her it will be in her best interest if the deed stays in his safe-deposit box. The man has made a gift and would be unable to legally reclaim it.
The gift must be delivered to the donee. If the gift is of a type that cannot be delivered in the conventional sense – a house, or a bank account – the delivery can be affected by a constructive delivery, wherein a tangible item allowing access to the gift – a deed or key to the house, a passbook for the bank account – is delivered instead. Symbolic delivery is also sometimes permissible where manual delivery is impractical, such as the delivery of a key that does not open anything but is intended to symbolize the transfer of ownership.
Certain forms of property must be transferred following particular formalities described by statute law. In England, real property must be transferred by a written deed. The transfer of equitable interests must be performed in writing by the owner or their agent.
A gift is assumed when property owner deeds real estate as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. Regardless of contribution to purchase price, such a deed guarantees each tenant equal shares upon sale or partition of the property.
The donee must accept the gift in order for the property transfer to take place. However, because people generally accept gifts, acceptance will be presumed, so long as the donee does not expressly reject the gift. A rejection of the gift destroys the gift so that a donee cannot revive a once-rejected gift by later accepting it. In order for such an acceptance to be effective, the donor would have to extend the offer of the gift again.