The opinion of the court was delivered by: Platt, Chief Judge.
This suit originated as a civil action of interpleader under
§ 1335, Title 28 U.S.C. Plaintiffs purchased oil runs from
wells on leases covering lands in Illinois and Indiana leased
to John M. Cline, deceased. All persons claiming any interest
in the payment for this oil were made parties. An order was
entered directing the plaintiffs to pay to the Clerk of this
Court the amounts due as of January 31, 1958, and be
discharged. Plaintiffs have complied with this order.
By stipulation of the parties the issue centers upon the
proper division to be made of the funds remaining on deposit
with the Clerk of this Court. Fern Cline Coyle, the widow of
John M. Cline, deceased, maintains that she is entitled to her
share of the funds as provided by the statutes of descent of
Illinois*fn1 and Indiana,*fn2 where part of Cline's property
was located. The brothers, sisters and a child of a deceased
brother, the heirs-at-law of John M. Cline, deceased, contend
that a written contract between the widow and her present
husband, and the heirs providing for the distribution of the
funds should be specifically enforced by this court.
John M. Cline died intestate at Mt. Carmel, Illinois, on
February 23, 1953. Probate proceedings were commenced in
Wabash County, Illinois, and Persaw and Dallas Cline are the
duly qualified and acting administrators of his estate.
Ancillary proceedings are pending in Knox County, Indiana,
where Gerald Hall is the duly qualified and acting ancillary
John M. Cline left surviving him his widow, Fern Cline, now
Coyle, Pearl McFarland, his mother, Dallas Cline, Persaw
Cline, William Cline, Orville Cline, Ruby Urbansky, and Alice
Widdows White, all brothers and sisters, and Cheryl Cline, a
minor daughter of a predeceased brother, Virgil, as his only
Pearl McFarland died in Oklahoma intestate in 1956 leaving
as her only heirs-at-law the other heirs who survived John M.
Cline. Orville Cline was appointed and is the acting
administrator of her estate in Oklahoma. Douglas McDonald is
the duly qualified and acting ancillary administrator of her
estate in Indiana.
Fern Hickey (now Fern Cline Coyle) and John M. Cline, were
married in 1928. Though there was never a final decree of
divorce the couple did not live together after 1936. For 17
years prior to his death in 1953, John M. Cline lived with one
Opal Gleason. On July 19, 1954, Fern Cline married Ivan Coyle.
Subsequent to Cline's death, Opal Gleason claimed to be a
full partner in his estate. A suit by her against John M.
Cline's estate, resisted by the Illinois administrators, the
widow and heirs, was adjudicated against her in the Circuit
Court of Wabash County, Illinois, and the decision of the
trial court was upheld in Cline v. Cline, 1957, 12 Ill. App.2d 231,
139 N.E.2d 828. That decision became final in December,
1956. At that time claims and taxes against the estate of John
M. Cline, deceased, were due.
Toward the end of December, 1956, or the first part of
January, 1957, arrangements were made for a meeting between
Fern Cline Coyle, her husband, Ivan, Messrs. Howard and
Cullen, their attorneys, Guy McGaughey, Jr., attorney for the
Illinois administrators of Cline, and Alice Widdows White, as
representative of the heirs, to be held in San Francisco,
California, where Fern and Ivan Coyle were living. At the
first meeting on January 14, 1957, the Coyles, their
attorneys, Alice White, and Guy McGaughey, Jr., were present.
The status of the estate of John M. Cline and a settlement
agreement were discussed. Another meeting was held on the
following evening at which the same persons were present and
a written instrument or settlement agreement was drawn by
McGaughey and Cullen. Fern Coyle and Ivan Coyle, who is an
accountant, requested and were given opportunity to examine
the instrument and consider it by themselves during the next
day. On January 16, certain changes which Fern and Ivan
requested were made. That evening Fern and Ivan Coyle advised
that they were ready to sign the instrument provided, prior to
February 5, 1957, the Illinois administrators would file an
accounting through December 31, 1956 with the Clerk of Wabash
County Court, and the signatures of all the heirs, their
respective spouses, together with those of the administrators,
Guy McGaughey, Jr., and George W. Cullen would be obtained to
the instrument. Pursuant to the Coyles' instructions, Mr.
Cullen, their attorney, on a separate sheet of paper, prepared
a brief memorandum setting forth the conditions which they
requested be fulfilled before they would execute the
agreement, and it reads as follows:
"San Francisco, Calif.
Fern Cline Coyle
San Francisco, Calif.
"This is to confirm assurances to you this
date that I will do the following:
(a) Cause an accounting to be filed in the
Wabash County Court (by not later than February
(1957) by the Co-Administrators of the Estate
of John M. Cline.
(b) Direct George W. Cullen, attorney, for
your interests to return to you all of the
signed copies of the settlement agreement this
day delivered to him if by February 5, 1957, I
have not caused all other parties named therein
evidence their participation in said ...