You and the Law – 15th February 2011

Keeping it in the family

My husband was left a ring by his father.  The intention was for it to be passed down through the male line of the family.  Since we had no grandchildren at the time the only boy in the family was a nephew.  We now have a grandson to whom we would like to give the ring, but we wanted to know our legal position on this in case it causes a family rift.  AC

If you have already given the ring to the nephew in all probability he will be entitled to keep it.  Generally speaking if you give something away you’re not entitled to ask for it back, even if it’s an heirloom.

The only exception might be for an engagement ring, where the prospective bridegroom gave his intended a family heirloom on the clear understanding that the ring would be returned if the woman did not become a member of the family.  I think you will have to settle this problem by calling a family conference.

Naming names

I am in the process of writing my autobiography, which I intend to have published in book form.  A small section will deal with the sale of my business to another person, which ended in a bitter dispute.  Can I presume it is in order to mention all the characters with pseudonyms without infringing the law?  MB

You should be very careful if the person concerned is still alive.  If the person has died the law regards him as being beyond damage.  If he is still alive, changing his name will not prevent what you write damaging the person’s reputation if other people are still able to recognise who you are referring to.

Of course, you will have a defence to a libel action if you can prove what you say is true.  But I think your publisher will be very wary of going down this road.  You should take expert advice from a Solicitor specialising in defamation law.

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