In today’s installation of our Civil Code series, we look at contracts for gifts, found in Chapter 3, Book V.

A “gift” is defined as “a contract which comes into effect when one party manifests the intention to give property to another gratuitously, and the other party accepts it.” In plain English, if someone promises to give you their car – for free – when they move abroad, that’s a gift.

Unless this gift is in writing, the giver can revoke it and the intended recipient is left with nothing. But if you do get the gift in writing, the gift becomes an enforceable contract – and the recipient would be able to force the giver to turn the object over.

Interestingly, the Civil Code allows a gift giver to take back their gift, even after its been given. First, if the recipient commits a serious breach of trust against the giver, the giver can take the gift back (within 5 years of the breach). Second, if the giver falls into extreme poverty and is unable to support themselves, they can get their gift back (again, only within the last 5 years).

Finally, the code provides for “encumbered gifts”, where the recipient is obliged to do something before they’re entitled to the gift. While some would say that sounds an awful lot like a regular contract (person A does something for B, B gives A money), we presume the drafters meant this to cover less commercial transactions. For instance, a father promises his daughter to buy her a computer if she goes to college. The law provides that if one party performs, they can demand that the other perform.