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Hebrew University Asso. v. Nye - 26 Conn. Supp. 342, 1966 Conn. Super. LEXIS 133, 223 A.2d 397

Rule:

A gift inter vivos is complete when there is an intention to give, accompanied by a delivery of the thing given and an acceptance by the donee. It is not necessary that there should be a manual delivery of the thing given; nor is there any particular form or mode in which the transfer must be made or by which the intention of the donor must be expressed. While the change of possession may be either actual or constructive, it must be such as is consistent with the nature of the property and the situation of the parties.

Facts:

Most of the facts in this case are recited in Hebrew University Assn. v. Nye, 148 Conn. 223, 169 A.2d 641 (1961). Additionally, it should be noted that at the time of the announcement of the gift of the "Yahuda Library," Decedent Ethel Yahuda gave to Plaintiff Hebrew University a memorandum containing a list of most of the contents of the library and of all of the important books, documents and incunabula. At some time prior to the summer of 1954 and during the lifetime of Decedent, Hebrew University began the project of erecting its library. As a part of its effort to finance the construction of the library, Hebrew University adopted a plan whereby various portions or rooms in the library were assigned certain respective money values, thereby permitting a person desiring to contribute toward the construction of such building, by making a contribution of the amount so assigned for such portion of the building or room, to have it dedicated to one's self or some person designated by the donor. In setting up this plan for the library building, Hebrew University designated a room in the building as the Yahuda room and indicated upon its plan that such room was not open for subscription or contribution because it had already been assigned for the Yahuda collection. The assigned value of this room was $21,600. By removing such room from possible subscription or contribution, Hebrew University deprived itself of a possible source of substantial revenue. Hebrew University claims a gift inter vivos based on a constructive or symbolic delivery or, alternatively, that because of Decedent's conduct and Hebrew University's action in reliance thereon, Defendant Executors of the Estate of Ethel Yahuda  are estopped to deny the gift.

Issue:

Was the university the legal and equitable owner of a library given by Decedent?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The Superior Court of Connecticut held that the delivery of a memorandum, coupled with Decedent's acts and declarations clearly showing an intention to give and to divest herself of any ownership of the library, were sufficient to complete the gift. The circumstances under which the gift was made, a public announcement at a luncheon attended by a head of state, accompanied by a document that identified in itemized form what was being given, were a sufficient substitute for a formal instrument purporting to pass title. It was undisputed that the decedent intended to give the books to the university so that they might be easily accessible to scholars. There was ample reason for equity to impose a constructive trust over the library, as denying the university's claim would have frustrated the intent of Decedent.

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