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Court: Evidence shows car was a gift

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In a case of first impression, the Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court that a husband gave his wife a car as a gift, despite registering the title in both his name and his wife's name.

Whether or not a person can make an inter vivos gift of a car where his or her name remains on the title after the gift was delivered is a matter of first impression in Indiana. The issue arose in the case William A. Brackin v. Peggy J. Brackin, No. 05A02-0803-CV-218, in which William Brackin appealed the trial court awarding Peggy Brackin a car in dissolution proceedings that contained both of their names on the title.

The two had a prenuptial agreement that allowed for gifts made during the marriage to remain with the recipient. William argues the car is not a gift because his name is also on the title; Peggy argues he gave her the car.

The Court of Appeals examined the Restatement (Third) of Property: Wills & Other Donative Transfers and other state's caselaw to determine when a donor otherwise meets the requirements of an inter vivos gift of a car but keeps his or her name on the title, a presumption arises the donor didn't have donative intent to make a gift. However, the receiver of the gift can overcome this assumption with clear and convincing evidence, which Peggy provided, wrote Judge Margret Robb.

William told Peggy, "Come out and see the new car I bought you"; she primarily drove the car; and William damaged the car in an angry retaliation directed at her. The appellate court agreed with the trial court that if William believed he owned the car, it wouldn't make sense for him to damage his own property in retaliation, wrote the judge.

William failed to present any evidence negating his donative intent except for the fact his name was also on the car's title.

"Therefore, we find, as a matter of law, the evidence clearly and convincingly establishes William's donative intent and that William and Peggy intended the Lucerne as a gift to Peggy from William," Judge Robb wrote.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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