The Symbol of Love

Posted on June 20, 2014

Throughout the state of Florida, and even the entire country, couples know the engagement ring as a symbol of love shared between two individuals.  It is a promise to marry; a promise that in many instances can be broken by either party involved. Engagement rings can be extremely expensive, and subsequently be one of the most valuable pieces of personal property in an individual’s estate.  Therefore, who keeps the ring when the marriage ends, or if the engagement ceases is a big issue faced by many couples.  Also, what might happen to the ring when a death occurs? The answers to these questions can be complicated and varies state by state in the U.S. 

To understand these questions in Florida, it is important to know what happens to that valuable engagement ring if the wedding is suddenly called off.  There are a few factors courts use to determine the ownership of the ring.  In general, the ownership of the ring becomes the personal property of the person who received it once a legal marriage has occurred.  Further, any gifts to a spouse after marriage are not really “gifts” at all, but actually are shared fifty-fifty as joint property of the marriage.  This is of course absent a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement.

But in Florida, if a legal marriage does not occur and the engagement is called off, the Florida court’s approach to the engagement ring is one of a conditional gift.  In other words, an engagement ring is a gift to another person made with an implied condition that a marriage will occur.  This means, a former wife may keep her ring after a divorce as part of her agreement to marry her former husband.  Therefore a person who receives an engagement ring, and marries the ring giver, will be able to keep the ring after divorce.  However, in Florida, the ring giver may recover the engagement ring if the person who received the ring terminates the relationship before marriage, or if both parties consent to terminate the relationship mutually.  Strictly speaking, the person who gives the engagement ring may recover the ring unless he or she is the person responsible for ending the engagement.  This area of fault can of course be a ripe area of litigation.

Although there is no direct Florida case law on point to the question of who gets the ring if a party dies before the marriage takes place, states with similar probate laws have answered and addressed the issue.  Similar to Florida, Pennsylvania courts, which view the engagement ring as a conditional promise, have held that since the condition may never take place because of the persons death, the ring shall be returned to the person who gifted it and not the descendant’s estate.  Although this holding has no binding effect in Florida courts, it is likely that a Florida court would rule in a similar fashion.  If the marriage does in fact occur, and the ring wearer subsequently dies, the ring would probably stay within the deceased estate.

If you or anyone you know is in need of representation in actions involving Guardianship, Probate and/or Trust Disputes, or questions pertaining to such proceedings, please contact The Law Offices of Glenn M. Mednick, P.L., at (954) 315-1154 or gmednick@mednicklawgroup.com.

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