Publication Date


Document Type

Survey Article


Definitions of a will are numerous and varied. The statutory definition is that "A will is the legal declaration of a person's intentions as to the disposition of his property after death." Obviously, a will is not a contract since it is unilateral. However, a contract to make a will in behalf of another or to include in a will a particular devise or legacy is valid if founded on a valuable consideration. Bowles v. White reaffirms this well recognized rule. The plaintiff in this case filed suit, as administrator, seeking to recover certain realty of the decedent. The defendant filed an answer and cross-action, the nature of which was to set up an oral contract between the defendant and the decedent wherein it was alleged that the decedent had agreed to leave certain property to the defendant in return for services rendered the decedent during her lifetime. In the superior court the defendant's answer and cross-action was stricken and the jury directed to find for the plaintiff. On appeal to the Supreme Court this judgment was reversed. The court held that the answer and cross-action stated a cause of action since oral contracts, wherein one of the parties agrees to make a will devising specific property to another as compensation for services rendered to the former during his lifetime, are valid and enforceable in a court of equity.