Monday, January 17, 2011

Another Oral Contract to Make A Will - You Better Do Your Part

A recent Virginia Circuit Court case from Norfolk (Browder-Martin v. Meneses) highlights one of the main elements of an oral contract to make a will case - performance. In the case, the plaintiff agreed with the decedent to care for the decedent for life in exchange for getting the decedent's home. The decedent actually signed a will in accordance with the agreement. But, after caring for the decedent for several years, the plaintiff moved away and had her son and daughter-in-law care for the decedent - for which the they were paid by the decedent. Decedent ultimately signed a new will - leaving her home to her granddaughter instead of the plaintiff. So, decedent dies and plaintiff files suit alleging a breach of the contract to make a will.

The Court said nope. The plaintiff agreed to provide care but then handed it off to her son and daughter-in-law, who were paid by the decedent. Keeping it simple (and getting it right, in my opinion), the Court said that the plaintiff had not fulfilled her promise - caring for the decedent for the rest of her life.

In Virginia (and most states), personal services contracts are not assignable, meaning you can't contract to provide services (as opposed to goods or merchandise) to someone and then have someone else provide them (this is a gross oversimplification, but you get the idea).

The bottom line is: If you are going to prove an oral contract to make a will in Virginia based on a promise to provide care or services to someone, then you have to provide the services.