“A Flower I gave Nurit” – Withdrawing a Gift Due to Recipient’s Behavior

“A Flower I gave Nurit” – Withdrawing a Gift Due to Recipient’s Behavior

Written by

Gilad Bar-Ami
January 8, 2024

In Miriam Yalan-Shteklis's poem "Brave Danny", the protagonist describes Nurit who took his gifts but then turned her back on him, threw away the flower and left him sobbing by himself. What would have been Danny’s legal status had Nurit revealed her treacherous character after he committed to gift but prior to granting such?

In a 'regular' contractual relationship, the moment the offeree accepts the offeror’s offer, a binding contract is formed, under which the offeror must fulfill the obligation and the offeree must pay the consideration, but what about an offer to grant a gift, under which the offeree is not obligated to provide consideration? In a case discussed at the Supreme Court of Israel in July, 2001, the Court had to decide on the rights of creditors of a property against the rights of the recipients to whom the owner (the debtor) committed to grant the property as a gift. The Court found that just as the strength of the obligation of the grantor is weaker than that of a contracting party in a regular contract, so is the strength of the recipient's reliance on an obligation to receive a gift is of a feather-weight compared to the grantor's right to withdraw from the gift. Therefore, in the overall balance of the conflicting rights, the right of the creditors to realize the debt should be prioritized over the right of beneficiaries of the gift agreement who did not pay any consideration, and whose right was not perfected by the actual transfer of ownership of the property to them, but remained a right to an obligation to grant a gift.

As a general rule, a person who committed to grant a gift has the right to withdraw from this commitment subject to the following conditions being met: a. the recipient did not change its situation due to that commitment; and b. the obligor has not waived his right to withdraw from his obligation unless the ground for the obligor’s withdrawal is a "disgraceful behavior” by the recipient towards the obligor. In a case discussed at the Supreme Court in January, 1999, individuals, who undertook to grant their neighbors the right to expand their apartment at the expense of the common property, later decided to withdraw due to the recipients behavior, despite a waiver of the right to withdraw. The Court found that even a derogatory word or a frown, that would otherwise be considered insignificant, are sufficient to constitute a 'disgraceful behavior' and are grounds for the obligors to withdraw. In a case discussed in the District Court of Tel Aviv in June, 2023, the Court went one step further and determined that even the absence of a certain behavior may be considered a disgraceful behavior. In that case the recipient broke-off contact with the person who promised to grant her his house due to him accusing her of theft. The theft was not proven, but it was determined that a person who have been promised an apartment as a gift should be expected to make a minimal effort to make peace with the obligor and the lack of such an effort constitutes a disgraceful behavior and therefore the obligor is entitled to withdraw from his obligation, even though the recipient has changed her situation to the detriment due to his obligation and the obligor gave up his right to withdraw from his commitment.

It should be noted that while on occasion the Courts tend to favor the obligor over the recipient, more often than not a waiver of the right to withdraw from an obligation is deemed irrevocable. This is especially true when the recipient changes his situation to the detriment. Therefore, it is advisable to be assisted by a lawyer who is an expert in the field and consult in real time before making any commitment to grant a gift and certainly before waiving the obligor's right of withdraw from this commitment.