Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County. No. 95P362. Honorable Thomas R. Appleton, Judge Presiding.
Honorable Robert W. Cook, J., Honorable James A. Knecht, J. - Concur, Honorable Frederick S. Green, J. - Dissent. Justice Cook delivered the opinion of the court. Knecht, J., concurs. Green, J., dissents.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cook
The Honorable Justice COOK delivered the opinion of the court:
The question in this case is whether petitioners, the children of Charles W. Mayfield, are bound by Charles' agreement not to contest his mother's will. Charles entered into that agreement in 1963, during the administration of his father's estate. Petitioners argue (1) Charles had no power to bind them by the agreement, and (2) by its terms, the agreement did not prevent them from contesting the will. The trial court held petitioners were bound. We affirm.
The affidavits of the parties disclose the following.
Cecil B. Mayfield and his wife, Mayme R. Mayfield, owned a 1,000-acre farm in Sangamon County, referred to as the Riverdale Farm. By deeds dated December 22, 1949, and June 26, 1950, the Mayfields conveyed an undivided one-half interest in the Riverdale Farm to Charles. On December 9, 1958, the Mayfields executed a "Joint and Mutual Last Will and Testament," in which they devised the remaining undivided one-half interest to the survivor of them, and on the death of the survivor, to their daughter, Jean Mayfield smith. The will gave Charles an option to purchase Jean's interest at a price to be agreed upon by three appraisers, and if he predeceased the survivor, Charles' children were to have those rights. At the time he executed the will, Cecil was making preparations to travel to the Mayo Clinic for cancer surgery. The will was prepared by Jean, who was an attorney.
Cecil died December 20, 1958. On Charles' petition the will was admitted to probate in Sangamon County on January 28, 1959, estate No. 26727. Charles and Jean were appointed co-executors. Disputes, however, soon arose.
On November 18, 1963, Mayme, Jean, and Charles entered into an agreement whereby Mayme and Jean released Charles from any and all claims they had against him, and Charles released Mayme and Jean from any and all claims he had against them. The agreement stated that it "shall extend to and be binding upon the heirs *** of the parties hereto." The agreement contained a number of exceptions, areas as to which there was no agreement: (1) the accounting for the 1963 crop year, (2) matters regarding "sealed corn" grown in the 1962 crop year, and (3) "all rights of any of the parties hereto, and any other person or persons now or hereafter born, under or by virtue of the Joint and Mutual Last Will and Testament of Cecil B. Mayfield and Mayme R. Mayfield, dated December 9, 1958." The agreement affirmatively provided that Charles would resign as coexecutor in Cecil's estate and that he renounced any right to act as executor in Mayme's estate.
By a supplemental agreement that same date, the parties further agreed: "Neither said Charles W. Mayfield nor said Jean M. Smith will contest the Joint and Mutual Last Will and Testament of Cecil B. Mayfield and Mayme R. Mayfield, dated December 9, 1958, as the last will of said Mayme R. Mayfield." The supplemental agreement also provided: "Nothing in this supplemental agreement shall affect, restrict, or impair the generality of the terms and conditions of said settlement agreement of even date herewith."
The agreement and supplemental agreement were filed with the court in Cecil's estate on January 17, 1964, and were recited in the final account of executor and petition for discharge filed that same day. An order approving the final account was entered September 10, 1964. As a result of the agreement and supplemental agreement, claims against Charles in Cecil's estate were dismissed, a lawsuit filed by Mayme against Charles was dismissed, and a lawsuit filed by Jean against Charles was dismissed.
Charles died November 5, 1967, leaving four children, the petitioners herein. Mayme died June 18, 1995, and her will (the joint and mutual will of December 9, 1958) was admitted to probate June 27, 1995. Petitioners demanded formal proof of the will, and a second order finding that the elements of the will had been proved was entered November 29, 1995. On December 27, 1995, petitioners filed a "Complaint to Set Aside Will and for Tortious Interference with Inheritance Rights," alleging that Jean occupied a confidential and fiduciary relationship with regard to Mayme and that Mayme had been unduly influenced by Jean. On February 23, 1996, Jean filed a motion to dismiss. A supplemental motion asserted that petitioners claimed benefits under the will when their attorney, on October 16, 1979, advised Jean that a partition suit could not be filed because petitioners had an option to purchase under Mayme's will.
On May 1, 1996, the circuit court entered an order dismissing petitioners' complaint pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 1994)). The court found that the agreement and supplemental agreement by their terms barred a contest of Mayme's will and that petitioners as Charles' heirs were bound by that agreement. The court noted that Charles knew the contents of the will during the administration of Cecil's estate, and ...