Are engagement rings conditional gifts? Should a condition accompany the engagement rings, one stating that if a couple’s engagement fails, the ring is returned, as would any other kind of conditional gift?
If you are thinking of taking things in your relationship to the next level, you could think that the ring should have some condition attached to them.
This is because even with the promises that partners make to each other, broken engagement rings are quite common. The process is extremely challenging, upsetting, and difficult for the involved.
And with all the mental challenges that come with the broken relationship, there is also the weight of who gets to keep the engagement ring after the separation.
So, with this reality, it is important to consider that the engagement ring may be offered as a conditional gift, especially because not all engagements end amicably.
Is an engagement ring a conditional gift?
Legally, an engagement ring can be considered an outright (unconditional gift) or a conditional gift. But before we address this, it is time we all admitted the truth – that regardless of your intentions and the fact that the two of you may be everything either of you hoped from each other, things may not always work out.
There are some instances where couples break things amicably, and settling on who gets the engagement ring back, which keeps it, and who takes hold of and ownership of the ring after the engagement is broken isn’t as complicated.
Then there are instances where the engagement ring is given unconditionally, and in such cases, the ring is given as an outright gift, and legally, the recipient keeps the ring, regardless of whether the relationship ends in marriage or not.
Note, however, that across the US, very few states consider engagement rings to be unconditional gifts. Montana is the only exception.
So, when are engagement rings regarded as conditional gifts?
An engagement ring can be termed as a conditional gift if it’s given with the intention that the recipient of the ring will get to keep the ring for as long as they fulfill a future condition, often marriage.
The most common example of a conditional gift is a trust fund created for one’s child – often, this is set up, and the child will only access the trust fund after turning 18 or 21.
So, with engagement rings being conditional, several states view the future condition for engagement as marriage, and for others, the condition would be saying yes to the engagement proposal.
Often, the courts will view the condition under either of these two conditions as was intended by the giver of the ring.
Engagement Rings as Conditional Gifts
When an engagement ring is given as a conditional gift, it often means that whether the ring stays with the recipient or not, after a breakup, for example, is entirely dependent on specific future events or even actions happening.
So, if the event mentioned or expected does not take place, then it will mean that the giver of the gift will have the right to take back the gift.
That said, many courts categorize the engagement rings as one form of conditional gift, and in the event of a broken engagement, the giver would get back their engagement ring.
At the same time, the ring’s recipient may argue that they said yes and accepted the proposal, which meant that the condition was already met. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work.
As per the court, the idea of an engagement ring being conditional means that it is pegged on the engagement being successful and the couple getting married.
Therefore, it is worth noting that deeming the engagement ring as a conditional gift creates a disparity between the condition and the needs to be met. However, the law is not clear on the condition, or when it kicks in, so the condition is open to interpretation.
The most common condition for the engagement rings is the completion of the marriage, and the courts often rule that the engagement ring is to be returned if the condition for the marriage is not met. And if the wedding doesn’t happen, the recipient will give back the ring.
But even with broken engagements, others argue that the ring shouldn’t be returned because the condition was already met – in this case, the condition was saying yes to the proposal.
Engagement Rings as Unconditional Gifts
As mentioned above, the engagement ring is unconditional if the giver intended wholly to give the recipient the ring wholly as a gift and with no strings attached.
Also, if the recipient only needed to accept the ring and if the giver actually gave the recipient the ring.
Legally, if the engagement is broken off, and the case of the engagement ring ends up in court, there is a likelihood that the ring would have to be returned because the court will require that the ring is returned because the condition of marriage is not fulfilled.
The only state that considers the ring an unconditional gift is the state of Montana – all other states regard it as a conditional gift meant to be returned.
But the specific laws may change – in fault states like Massachusetts, Kentucky, Alabama, New Hampshire, and Alaska, the person who calls off the wedding is the one who has to forfeit the ring – even if that person was the ring giver.
So, think about this the next time you are proposing or unsure what to do with an engagement ring after breaking off the engagement.
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Stephanie is a jewelry lover when she was a teenager. Her major was fashion design when she was in college. She is a jewelry designer at SOQ Jewelry and other design companies. Now she is also a writer for our website. She writes a lot of designs&brands posts with very actionable tips.