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In Re Estate of Mclaughlin

SEPTEMBER 15, 1971.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ALVIN J. KVISTAD, Judge, presiding.


Michael McLaughlin died intestate on October 8, 1968. Letters of administration were issued, and a declaration of heirship was entered and later amended. On February 11, 1969, two nieces and two nephews of the decedent, Margaret McSheffrey, Mary R. Baillie, Richard McCole, and Vincent McLaughlin, instituted supplemental proceedings in the probate division of the circuit court to enforce the terms of an alleged oral contract. The cause proceeded to trial; and the court, after hearing testimony and arguments of counsel, entered an order which in substance granted the relief sought by the plaintiffs in their complaint.

From this order, four heirs-at-law appeal and contend (1) that the judgment is against the manifest weight of the evidence and (2) that the judgment is contrary to law.

Due to the nature of the contentions raised, it is necessary to set forth the evidence presented at trial. Charles McCole, a nephew of the decedent and a brother of one of the parties to the alleged oral contract, testified that in September, 1968, he visited and conversed with his uncle who was in the hospital. During this conversation, his uncle stated that he was not really lonely in the hospital because the four plaintiffs herein, frequently visited, wrote or telephoned him. The decedent further said to him, "Charlie, these four people [the plaintiffs] has been very good to me and kind to me, and as I told you before that I am not going to forget these four in my will."

The reference to "before" was to a conversation which the witness had with his uncle on Thanksgiving Day in 1966. At that time the decedent acknowledged the kindness and attention which the plaintiffs had given him: Richard McCole had done carpentry work for him; Vincent McLaughlin had visited with him and driven him to a number of places; Mary Rose Baillie had done household work and cared for personal business for him; and Margaret McSheffrey had entertained him nicely when he visited Boston. The witness then testified with regard to this conversation, "And he said, `If they continue to show me good times — ' and one thing and another, `that I will not forget them in my will. I want to leave them each $10,000 a piece, which should be a good start,' or something to that effect to help them out."

Charles McCole further testified that in the period from 1965 to 1968 he had seen his brother, Richard, with his deceased uncle about 25 or 30 times. During this time he observed his brother doing repair or carpentry work in the decedent's place of business. He often saw the decedent with Vincent McLaughlin, and in March, 1968, he saw the two of them just after Vincent had driven the decedent to visit a cemetery.

Bernard Toland, who had known the decedent as a friend since 1946, and who visited with him five or six times a year, testified with regard to a conversation which he had with the decedent on July 4, 1966, as follows:

"He said Mary Rose was so good to him she cleans his house from top to bottom, washes curtains, drapes, irons them up and makes his supper for him. "Vincent is like a chauffeur to me, he brings me to the beach, ballgames, and he brings me to Wisconsin to Dick's home," anywhere he wants to go. Vincent is available.

He said he regretted that Margaret was so far away. "I feel so close to her, she invites me to come to Boston to her home, and when I do go there, she shows me a great time."

He said, "Dick, he does work for me in the tavern. He panelled the walls, tends bar, and he won't take any money for it."

He said to me, "His being so kind to me in the past, and if they continue to in the future, I intend to leave them 10 to $13,000 in my will when I die."

Toland further testified that on Christmas Day, 1967, the decedent, after recounting the activities of the plaintiffs, stated, "those four I have mentioned he said being so good to me, I plan to leave 10 to $15,000 in my will."

George Doherty testified that he had known the deceased since their childhood days in Ireland. He was present at Bernard Toland's home on July 4, 1966, and overheard the decedent discussing the making of a will.

James A. Mahoney, an attorney who had known the decedent for a number of years, testified that on October 6, 1968, he drafted and prepared a will in accordance with instructions given by McLaughlin. This will was never signed because the decedent died ...

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