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Watson v. Watson

OPINION FILED MARCH 24, 1955

CARRIE D. WATSON, APPELLEE,

v.

WILL WATSON ET AL., APPELLANTS.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Pope County; the Hon. LAN HANEY, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE HERSHEY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied May 16, 1955.

Carrie D. Watson, plaintiff-appellee, filed her amended complaint in the circuit court of Pope County to cancel a written antenuptial agreement executed by herself and her deceased husband. The complaint also sought to partition certain real estate. The heirs of the deceased husband, the administrator de bonis non of his estate, and certain other persons having some interest therein were made parties defendant.

The heirs, brothers and sisters of the decedent, and the administrator, filed an answer denying that the plaintiff was entitled to any relief and counterclaimed for possession of real estate occupied by plaintiff and for certain sums received by plaintiff under contracts for deed from certain contract purchasers.

Upon hearing, the circuit court found that at the time of the execution of the agreement, plaintiff and her late husband were engaged to be married and as a consequence thereof a fiduciary relationship existed between them requiring the decedent to make a full and complete disclosure of his assets and the value thereof prior to the execution of the antenuptial agreement. The court then found that no such disclosure was made and that the contract was therefore invalid since the consideration received by the plaintiff was so disproportionate to the means of the decedent.

The court decreed partition of the real estate as prayed and denied defendants any of the relief sought in their counterclaim. The defendants have appealed from that decree and since a freehold is involved this court has jurisdiction of the appeal. The parties will be referred to herein as they were designated in the circuit court.

Plaintiff was a spinster sixty-eight years of age at the time of her marriage on December 28, 1944, to one James M. Watson, who was a widower seventy-two years of age. At the time of the marriage Watson owned considerable property in the city of Golconda, Illinois.

A review of the evidence shows that the plaintiff had lived in and around Golconda, Illinois, all of her life. For almost forty years she had clerked in stores in the town and had known James M. Watson from childhood. Likewise, plaintiff had known and been well acquainted with Watson's first wife, Mary.

On the night of December 26, 1944, two days before their marriage, Watson put an envelope on a table in plaintiff's room containing the antenuptial agreement. She testified that she looked the agreement over that night and signed it the following morning, and, as requested, took it to a Mrs. Ragan for delivery to Watson.

In substance, the antenuptial agreement provided that in contemplation of a marriage between the parties soon to be solemnized, plaintiff for and in consideration of the payment of the sum of $1000 released, waived and forever renounced all her right, title or claim, or dower in and to all property that would have otherwise accrued to her as the wife of James M. Watson.

The day following the signing of the agreement plaintiff and Watson were married in Bythesville, Arkansas.

The parties in this case agree that where persons, parties to an antenuptial contract, are engaged to be married before the contract is entered into, a confidential relationship exists and if the provision made for the wife is disproportionate to the extent and value of the husband's estate a presumption is raised of an intended concealment by the intended husband. Brown v. Brown, 329 Ill. 198; Parker v. Gray, 317 Ill. 468; Murdock v. Murdock, 219 Ill. 123; Hessick v. Hessick, 169 Ill. 486.

This presumption, without more, constitutes a prima facie case of concealment and casts upon those who would sustain the agreement the burden of showing the absence of concealment and that the intended wife had full ...


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