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Responsibilites When Accepting a Horse as a Gift

EQUESTRIAN QUESTION FORUM by Lisa L. Lerch, Esq.

My neighbor wants to give my daughter a miniature horse for Christmas. Do I need any paperwork if the horse is a gift?

Yes. Regardless of whether or not the horse is registered, you will still want some type of writing to reflect the transfer of the horse to you as the new owner. If the horse is registered, you will need the proper transfer of ownership documentation to reflect your right to title of the horse for the breed registry. You will also want to have some type of writing to reflect your neighbor’s intent to give you the horse. At a bare minimum, the document should contain the following:

  1. Name of the parties
  2. Name and description of the horse (including registration #)
  3. Date of transfer
  4. Description of transfer as gift ** “the horse is given voluntarily and without further consideration"

If the horse is not registered, this document is even more important. Too often, I receive phone calls from people who have been “given" a horse only to have the previous owner demand it back at a later date claiming they still own it. Without a written agreement, your possession of the horse may not be enough to prove you now own it free and clear. Without documentation showing your right to possession, the previous owner can claim conversion (civil theft) of their property.

In California, the test to determine whether something has been given as a gift is whether it is given voluntarily and without payment of any kind. Further, California’s Civil Code section 1147 states that a verbal gift is not even valid unless there is an actual delivery of the thing given. Your possession of the horse may comply with the code if you are able to prove the previous owner physically gave you the horse, but be cautious. A common argument by previous owners is that the horse is simply being loaned and that the horse was never actually intended as a gift.

In my opinion, if it is worth doing, it is worth writing about. The neighbor who may be your very best friend this month may decide that you have stolen her horse next month. A written agreement setting forth the terms of the transfer may very well prevent a nasty lawsuit in the future.

Happy Holidays!

This article is meant to provide general information only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. The information in this article is not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship between attorney and reader. The contents of this article are not a substitute for seeking the advice of legal counsel.

Copyright 2008. Legal Equestrian, a Professional Law Corporation All rights reserved.

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