In Re Estate of Ina Ruth Brown

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The Tennessee Supreme Court recently upheld a lower court’s decision to enforce a contract between a husband and wife to execute wills providing for all of their children and to refrain from changing their wills after the death of the first spouse.

Roy Brown, Jr. and Ina Brown both had children from previous marriages.  Roy and Ina agreed that they would like to include all of their children in their wills and therefore executed a contract stating that they would both execute wills to that effect. The contract also provided that they would not change their wills after the death of the first spouse.  Shortly after executing the contract, Roy and Ina executed new last wills to comply with its terms.

After Roy’s death, Ina executed a new last will that differed from her previous will.  After Ina’s later death, Roy’s children argued that Ina’s will violated her contract with Roy and, as such, should be null and void.  The trial court ruled that Ina’s will was invalid and that the will that she signed prior to her husband’s death should control.  Both the Court of Appeals and the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s decision by ruling that the contract to execute mutual wills was enforceable and, as such, Ina's later will was invalid on account of violating her agreement with Roy.