When the wife resells her husband’s gift

A the approach of the holidays, remember that the gifts “ made on the occasion of certain events Like Christmas or New Years Day, and “Not exceeding a certain value” (generally 2.5% of the assets of the “Disposing”), are “Customary gifts”. According to the case law of the Court of Cassation (6 December 1988, 87-15.083), they “Escape the rules of donations” : this means that they cannot be claimed by the one who offered them, on the day he divorces, or by his heirs, when he dies.

The person who receives a customary present can therefore do with it what he wants … including reselling it. However, if it draws a jackpot from it, because, for example, in the case of paintings, the artist’s price has risen in the meantime, it is rare that the donor or his family do not come forward, as shown. the next case.

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On December 18, 1993, Pierre X (first names changed) married Christine W, under the regime of separation of property. On December 18, 2003, he gave her a medieval tapestry. In 2006, the couple separated, but did not divorce. In December 2013, Mrs X resold the tapestry, through the intermediary of Sotheby’s. The work, estimated “Between 47,200 euros and 71,000 euros », is sold at a price of… 1.4 million euros.

Report the amount to the estate

When Mr. X learns of it, he assigns his wife, so that she is ordered to pay him the proceeds of the sale. During the procedure, he dies, and three of his heirs ask that their mother-in-law return the sum to the estate. They claim that there was no donation or customary present. However, various documents produced by Mrs X prove that the tapestry was indeed offered to her, by her husband, in a “Special circumstance” : the “Tenth anniversary” of their marriage.

The heirs reply, however, that the second condition, necessary for a gift to be qualified as a customary present, is not respected: it must not “To exceed a certain value “; however, the tapestry sold for more than one million euros. This argument was rejected by the Caen (Calvados) Court of Appeal on March 23: under article 852 of the Civil Code, “The present character of use is assessed on the date on which it is granted”, that is to say in 2003, and not in 2013.

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The tapestry not having been the subject of an estimate in 2003, the court considers that the valuation of the Sotheby’s house (between 47,200 euros and 71,000 euros) should be retained. Indeed, “The fact that the bids have soared to reach an amount of 1.4 million does not allow this price to be retained as reflecting the real value of the present, on the day it was made”.
However, the court noted, the income and the significant heritage (castle, houses, works of art) that Mr. X then had available means that the value of his gift was “Proportionate to [sa] fortune ». She dismisses the heirs.