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  1. #1
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    Nov 2016
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    21

    Default How to Collect a Gift, Given to You But Not Delivered During a Gift-Giver's Lifetime

    My question involves personal property located in the State of: Alaska.

    Alright so let's start at the beginning. After finishing high school in 2007, I went up to Unalakleet (A remote Alaskan Inuit fishing village) to visit my very elderly grandfather who was expected to be on his way out. It was my last chance to see him before he died. While I was there, in the summer around early July or late June, we pulled out this notorious priceless ivory chess set. This thing could be in a museum. It's hand-carved and all pure ivory, very old too. He taught me what the different pieces were, since it isn't traditional at all and you wouldn't know. Then he told me that he was giving it to me. Now, this was about 9 years ago so what I think happened is that he told me he was going to mail it to my house in Nebraska. Being 18 years old and naive, I assumed this would actually happen. It didn't, and it stayed up in Alaska. His health was failing around that time and he was sent to the hospital. At the time, I was probably thinking about him rather than the chess set. I had a tendancy to think that people are very civilized and charitable by nature, so I figured I would have it one way or another. I didn't think his wife was going to just horde it with no regard to me or my now late grandfather's wishes.

    Now here's the thing: She (My grandfather's wife) died not too long ago. Also I was told while she was alive that she wouldn't give it up easily, so I listened and didn't even ask. Relations between us just weren't good enough, apparently. She isn't related to my mom despite being on my mom's side of the family. I guess he remarried to her after having my mom. Now my mom says that the set is likely in the possession of her daughter and some other guy who was young at the time and who I got along with alright. Of course this is why I'm bringing this up now, because I just today learned that the old wife has died. I sense the grip has loosened enough for me to get my chess set. That's right, MY chess set.

    Of course, that's my argument. He gave it to me. He said it was mine, and that he'd mail it to me. For mostly medical reasons, he never got around to mailing it and now I don't have it. In my opinion, I own it, but it is not in my possession. Now, of course, I want it. I want the ivory chess set that was GIVEN TO ME BY MY NOW LATE GRANDFATHER. I'm related to him by blood, and NOT the people that have it in their possession now. The re-marriage family has it now...

    My parents say to let it go, but I say it's worth a shot at least. Does anybody think I have a case that could actually win? First I will simply ask and verify that it's with the daughter. Maybe she'll just not care about it and give it to me. 100% guarantee that this thing is just collecting dust somewhere. I don't have a job so I have plenty of time to pursue this.

    I know I haven't even asked about it yet, but it's very likely that she won't be willing to give it up. In that case, what do you guys think? Thanks for your help and reading this huge post if you actually do!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
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    in alto mare
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    1,123

    Default Re: Priceless Chess Set Given to Me

    He should have given it to you via a will. Was there a will? If not, and the estate has already been through probate you may be out of luck.

    I don't think that you have a claim to it without any written documentation that he intended it for you.

    If you know who has it, why not ask about it and consider making an offer to purchase it.

    If you do make a purchase offer, don't mention that it's "priceless" or the owner may take that to mean they can charge a ridiculous amount of money.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    38,867

    Default Re: Priceless Chess Set Given to Me

    He didn't give it to you though. He did not give it to you then and he subsequently did not give it to you by sending it to you. Unless stated in his will (if he had one) it was to be given to
    you, it is not yours and you have no claim to it.

    Many people fail to take the appropriate actions to distribute property and in that failing, ensure the person they wanted to have the property do not get it.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
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    Somewhere near Canada
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    35,894

    Default Re: Priceless Chess Set Given to Me

    Quote Quoting jk
    View Post
    He didn't give it to you though. He did not give it to you then and he subsequently did not give it to you by sending it to you. Unless stated in his will (if he had one) it was to be given to
    you, it is not yours and you have no claim to it.

    Many people fail to take the appropriate actions to distribute property and in that failing, ensure the person they wanted to have the property do not get it.
    Seconded. I don't see a claim here.

    I'd also point out that being related to someone by blood makes you no more "family" than being related by marriage (or other legal means). Really.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
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    21

    Default Re: Priceless Chess Set Given to Me

    Sounds like legally I don't have much going for me. I still need to simply ask and just explain myself that way. I might not have the law behind me but I might be able to convince somebody. Also, I will try to ask about a will, though I know everybody in my family is probably going to be pretty annoyed that I'm trying to even pursue this. Whatever, it's my thing and I think it's worth a shot if the reward is so great. Though, even then, it's not really about the chess set so much as the principle. He was a really good man and he wanted me to have that chess set. This might just be a 'heart-breaker' case where I really should have it but I also really can't get it. At least if I don't get it I can feel like I tried. Thanks for your help!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Posts
    8,025

    Default Re: How to Collect a Gift, Given to You But Not Delivered During a Gift-Giver's Lifet

    When he told you he was going to give you the chess set, that was evidently a promise to give you the chess set sometime in the future. Otherwise, he would have simply given it to you right then while you were there. But he didn’t. There are two general principles of law that work against you here.

    The first is that a gift of personal property is generally considered to be complete when the property is actually delivered to the recipient of the gift. Since he never actually turned over possession of the chess set to you, the gift was never completed. So the chess set remained his until he did that, which unfortunately never happened.

    The second principle is that a promise to make a gift (other than a gift to charity) is generally not enforceable. So the donor (person who would make the gift) could make the promise to give the gift, change his mind the next day and never complete the promised gift, and the donee (the person who was to receive the gift) would have no recourse to force the donor to give him the promised gift.

    Finally, even if those were not problems, the time to raise the issue of the gift was, at the latest, when your grandfather’s estate was probated. Even if you had a good claim to make to the chess set, you had to submit that within the time allowed for claims against the estate. You failed to do that so it is almost certainly much too late to raise it now. It evidently passed to your step-grandmother, and became her property to do with as she saw fit.

  7. #7
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    Nov 2013
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    in alto mare
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    Default Re: Priceless Chess Set Given to Me

    Quote Quoting Jackson9001
    View Post
    Sounds like legally I don't have much going for me. I still need to simply ask and just explain myself that way. I might not have the law behind me but I might be able to convince somebody. Also, I will try to ask about a will, though I know everybody in my family is probably going to be pretty annoyed that I'm trying to even pursue this. Whatever, it's my thing and I think it's worth a shot if the reward is so great. Though, even then, it's not really about the chess set so much as the principle. He was a really good man and he wanted me to have that chess set. This might just be a 'heart-breaker' case where I really should have it but I also really can't get it. At least if I don't get it I can feel like I tried. Thanks for your help!
    Like I said, your best bet might be to offer to buy it. Approach with a good attitude and explain that it meant a lot to you because you used to play the game with him, If they don't care to sell the game then there's probably nothing else that can be done. At least you have some good memories of him. Good luck.

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