A story about a man who dumped his fiancé via text message found its way into my inbox recently. While arguably poor form to end a serious relationship via text message, that wasn’t what caught my attention. It was the fact that the content of the text message ended up costing the man $53,000.00. In ending the relationship, the gentlemen promised to reimburse his fiancé for money she spent on the wedding preparations and added the line “plus you get a $50,000.00 parting ring”. A few weeks later the gentlemen attempted to retrieve the ring from his now former fiancé, claiming by law, she had to return the ring. However, a New York judge ruled differently. While engagement rings have been found to be conditional gifts that do not vest until marriage, the text message stating the ring was a parting gift changed the nature of the ring and it was no longer seen as a conditional gift. The court ruled that the jilted woman was the rightful owner of the $53,000.00 ring.
Pennsylvania courts have also held that engagement rings are conditional gifts that do not vest until marriage occurs. Generally, that means if the engagement is broken, the ring goes back to the person who purchased it, regardless of fault. Unless of course the nature of the gift is changed, say by a text message. Be careful what you text, you don’t know what it could cost you.
Lindsay Schoeneberger is an attorney at Russell, Krafft and Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas, including Estate Planning and Domestic Relations.