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Oral/Parol Gifts of Real Estate, Land

To convey title to land/real estate in Missouri, you typically need to execute a formal deed transferring title. There are various court-created exceptions to this, including the legal claim that land may be conveyed by an oral gift. 

Relatively speaking, there are not many cases in Missouri outlining all of the different factual circumstances in which this can occur. In the typical case, however, the donee (the person receiving and claiming the gift) is induced by a promise of the gift and takes possession of the land and makes valuable and permanent improvements to it. Keen v. Dismuke, 690 S.W.2d 822, 824 (Mo. Ct. App. 1985). An example of a valuable and permanent improvement would be erecting structures or facilities on the land. The reasoning is that it would be inequitable and unfair for the donor (the person making the gift) to deny the transfer because the donee has acted in accordance with the gift. The evidence must show a delivery with the clear intent on the part of the donor to pass title immediately and to relinquish control. In the Estate of Petersen, 295 S.W.2d 144, 150 (Mo. 1956). 

A person claiming title to real estate form an oral gift has the burden of proving the gift by clear and convincing evidence/testimony. Dalton v. Willis, 228 S.W.2d 709, 711 (Mo. 1950). When a gift is not asserted until after the donor’s death, it is viewed by the law with some suspicion. 

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