Law School Case Brief
Wilhoite v. Beck - 141 Ind. App. 543, 230 N.E.2d 616 (1967)
Where one accepts valuable services from another the law implies a promise to pay for them and the contract implied by law may support a claim against his estate. To warrant a finding of an implied contract of decedent to pay for services rendered by claimant, the elements of intention to pay and expectation of payment must be found to exist. The intention of decedent to pay for services rendered and claimant's expectation of compensation may be inferred from conduct, where equity and justice require compensation, as well as from direct communications between the parties, or such inference of compensation may arise from the relation and situation of the parties, the nature and character of the services rendered, and any other facts and circumstances shedding light on the question at issue.
Plaintiff Ruth Beck filed a claim in Indiana probate court against the estate of Flossie Lawrence, which was represented by defendant Martha Wilhoite, as executrix. Beck alleged that she furnished decedent with room, board and care and companionship from 1942 to 1963, with a total value of $27,837. After a bench trial, the trial court found for Beck. Wilhoite filed a motion for new trial, but it was overruled. Wilhoite appealed.
Was there substantial evidence of an implied contract to support Beck's claim against the estate?
The court of appeals affirmed the probate court's judgment. The court ruled, among other things, that sufficient evidence supported the decision, which was not contrary to law, because the parties' relationship as distant cousins did not give rise to the presumption that Beck's services were rendered gratuitously. The fact that Beck and the decedent lived together did not overcome the implied contract for the decedent to pay for Beck's services because there was evidence that she was an independent person, was not treated as one of the family, and remained employed most of the time. Naming Beck as a beneficiary in her will did not preclude Beck from recovering the costs of her services because many beneficiaries, including other cousins, were named although they performed no services at all for the decedent.
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