Gruen v. Gruen

Court of Appeals of New York, 1986.

68 N.Y.2d 48, 505 N.Y.S.2d 849, 496 N.E.2d 869.


Plaintiff states that his father gave him a painting when he was younger but that the father requested that he possess the painting for the remainder of his days.

Procedural History

The trial court held for the defendant, the appellate court reversed the decision and held for the plaintiff stating that the requirements for an inter-vivos gift were met

Arguments for Both Parties

The defendants argue that the painting was an asset that is meant to be in a will, “testamentary in nature” and that the circumstances surrounding the mentioned painting and the deceased wishes do not meet the requirements of a will. Plaintiff argues that the gift qualifies as an inter-vivos transfer. Defendant argues that even if the father meant the gift to be an inter-vivos transfer, his insistence on possessing it for the rest of his lifetime, invalidates the transfer


The instant court affirms the ruling of the appellate court stating that the father intended transfer of the property immediately and that it was delivered instantly by the instrument of the letter, and that it was also accepted by the plaintiff because the gift was so large and utterly behemoth in scope and worth. The plaintiff’s father relinquished all ownership of the property but was allowed to hold caretaker’s rights and possess. Possess, but merely possess- no ownership.


Intent, delivery, acceptance. And the distinction between possessing the painting and owning the painting.

Policy Arguments

This holding encourages people who own property to have others to take care of property. This makes property even more valuable and to engage in commerce to own those items. Allows people who own nice things to give the rights of use and caretaking to museums and such.


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