Paris Hilton, a name synonymous with fame and luxury, has captured the public’s eyes for quite some time. Ms. Hilton’s many engagements have also garnered a lot of attention. Before marrying Carter Reum in 2021, Paris Hilton was engaged three times to different suitors. Each engagement ring was better than the next, all three worth over $1 million. Her second fiancé even presented 15 different engagement rings from high-end jewelers for her choosing, of which she settled on one worth $5 million. After these failed engagements, is Paris legally entitled to keep her extravagant engagement rings, or must she return them to her now-ex? What are the property rights, if any, of the three fiancés before and after the engagement was broken off?
In New York, an engagement ring is considered a “conditional gift,” meaning that it was given on the condition that the giver of the ring and the receiver get married. The engagement is equivalent to a contract; if the giftor marries the giftee, the giftee may keep the ring. However, if a person proposes to another when their divorce from a previous marriage is not final, or before they even file for a divorce from a prior partner, then the engagement ring is not considered a conditional gift. This is because a person cannot legally promise to marry a person when they are still married to someone else. In this situation, the individual proposed to would legally be allowed to keep the engagement ring. Under New York law, Paris Hilton would legally be required to return her lavish engagement rings to her fiancés after the relationship ended.
Other than engagement rings, Paris Hilton’s past fiancés have no property rights to any of Ms. Hilton’s property. Marriage is the key distinction that triggers equitable distribution. Before marriage, Hilton’s property would be considered separate property, which means that her fiancés would have no rights to any of her property upon the breakup. Their rights would be the same as a mere boyfriend that she dated for a month.