In re Schoenkerman's Estate

236 Wis. 311, 294 N.W. 810 (1940)



If the sole consideration for promissory notes is natural love and affection then there can be no recovery. However, a moral obligation will operate as consideration for an executory promise whenever the promisor has originally received value, material pecuniary benefit, under circumstances giving rise to a moral obligation on his part to pay for that which he has received. 


After the decedent's wife died, the respondent claimants, who were the mother-in-law and sister-in-law of the decedent, moved into the decedent's home upon his request and cared for his home and his children. Approximately one year before his death, the decedent executed promissory notes in favor of the claimants. The trial court allowed judgments for the amounts of the notes but disallowed anything in excess of these sums. On appeal, the court held that the decedent was manifestly under a moral obligation to pay the claimants in addition to what they had received for their ten years of service to him.


Was there adequate consideration for the notes other than natural love and affection?




In executing and delivering the notes to them he plainly recognized that obligation, and it afforded more than ample consideration for the notes. The notes were negotiable instruments that recited they were executed for "value received." As a moral obligation existed to pay for the great excess of value of the services received by the decedent over the value of the board and lodging received from the decedent by the claimants, that moral obligation was presumed to be the consideration for the notes. Thus the notes became a legal obligation, not a mere unexecuted promise to make a gift of money.

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