Matt McDavitt—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group
It is well-settled that in most states, completed inter vivos gifts are deemed irrevocable, even in circumstances where the donor’s relationship with the donee later deteriorates or the purpose of the gift dissipates. “Many gifts are made for reasons that sour with the passage of time. Unfortunately, gift law does not allow a donor to recover/revoke an inter vivos gift simply because his or her reasons for giving it have soured.” Dayal v. Lakshmipathy, 2020-Ohio-5441, ¶ 37, 163 N.E.3d 683 (quotation formatting and citations omitted). However, Louisiana has a unique statute that allows completed lifetime gifts to be revoked upon proper facts showing “ingratitude” to the donor, either through attempted murder or through cruel treatment, where an action is brought within a year of the injurious act or imputed knowledge of such.
Revocation on account of ingratitude may take place only in the following cases:
- If the donee has attempted to take the life of the donor; or
- If he has been guilty towards him of cruel treatment, crimes, or grievous injuries.
La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 1557. If the donor has died within the limitations period, then the donee may file suit against the successors in interest of the deceased donor. La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 1558. What constitutes “cruel treatment” or “grievous injuries” to the donor sufficient to revoke a gift has been defined in the construing case law:
“[i]njuries” include any act naturally offensive to the donor. It may be the adultery of one of the spouses. . . . The act may consist of slanderous charges; of a seizure levied by the donee against the donor of whom he is creditor; or, in a proper case, even of the refusal to consent to the revocation.
Weiser v. Weiser, 19-433 (La. App. 5 Cir. 3/17/20); 293 So. 3d 747, 753, writ denied, 2020-00831 (La. 10/14/20); 302 So. 3d 1117; Perry v. Perry, 507 So. 2d 881 (La. Ct. App. 1987) (son's conduct in directing sheriff to seize personal property of his parents pursuant to his judgment against father constituted cruel treatment and grievous injury, thus meeting first requirement for revocation of donations made by parents to son on account of ingratitude), writ denied, 512 So. 2d 465 (La. 1987); Sanders v. Sanders, 33,865 (La. App. 2 Cir. 09/27/00); 768 So. 2d 739 (proof that donee denied donor was his father and told him he wished donor and his wife would die would be evidence of ingratitude sufficient to revoke donation); Laviolette v. Dubose, 14-148 (La. App. 5 Cir. 12/23/14); 167 So. 3d 145 (plaintiff's petition, in which she alleged assault and battery and subsequent course of conduct by defendant designed to intentionally inflict emotional distress upon plaintiff, sufficiently stated a cause of action for revocation of her inter vivos donation to defendant due to ingratitude). But cf. Watts v. Watts, 2017-0369 (La. App. 1 Cir. 12/29/17); 241 So. 3d 330 (although husband told wife that he no longer loved her, filed for divorce, sought to evict her, and refused to consent to a voluntary revocation of donation, his actions did not demonstrate grievous injury to wife that would be sufficient to warrant revocation of her donation), writ denied, 2018-0185 (La. 3/23/18); 239 So. 3d 294; In re Succession of Rachal, 2008-1379 (La. App. 3 Cir. 04/01/09); 7 So. 3d 132 (evidence was insufficient to annul testator's will on the basis of ingratitude; girlfriend's action in telling testator that she was involved with another man while he was confined in nursing home did not constitute cruel treatment such that revocation of testator's will, which left his estate to girlfriend, was warranted).
Note that the ingratitude sufficient to revoke a gift must be ill treatment to the donor personally. Didier v. Simmons, 2019-1100 (La. App. 1 Cir. 5/11/20) (allegations that former son-in-law committed adultery during his marriage to donors' daughter did not constitute cruel treatment toward donor parents for purposes of revoking inter vivos gift given to son-in-law on the basis of ingratitude, even if the act of adultery would clearly constitute cruel treatment toward their daughter), writ denied, 2020-00700 (La. 9/29/20); 301 So. 3d 1162.
Finally, where a revocation for ingratitude has been factually established, the remedy is that the donor return the gifted interest, or its value if the gift cannot be conveyed back to the donor. La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 1560.