Victor Gruen was a successful architect. Victor purchased a painting titled Schloss Kammer am Attersee II by a noted Austrian modernist, Gustav Klimt, and paid $ 8,000 for the painting. Four years after acquiring the painting, Victor wrote a letter to his son Michael, then an undergraduate student at Harvard University, giving the painting to Michael but reserving a life estate in the painting. The letter stated,
Dear Michael:
The 21st birthday, being an important event in life, should be celebrated accordingly. I therefore wish to give you as a present the oil painting by Gustav Klimt of Schloss Kammer which now hangs in the New York living room. Happy birthday again.
[Signed] Victor
Because Victor retained a life interest in the painting, Michael never took possession of the painting. Victor died 17 years later. The painting was appraised at $ 2.5 million. When Michael requested the painting from his stepmother, Kemija Gruen, she refused to turn it over to him. Michael sued to recover the painting. The trial court held in favor of the stepmother. The appellate division reversed and awarded the painting to Michael. The stepmother appealed. Did Victor Gruen make a valid gift inter vivos of the Klimt painting to his son Michael? Gruen v. Gruen, 68 N. Y. 2d 48, 496 N. E. 2d 869, 505 N. Y. S. 2d 849, 1986 N. Y. Lexis 19366 (Court of ­Appeals of New York)

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