Estate of Freeman – Case Brief Summary (California)

In Estate of Freeman (1965) 238 Cal.App.2d 486, the claimants under a will that left them some of the testator's personal effects claimed entitlement to the residue of the estate after the will's residuary clause failed.

They induced the testator's sole legal heir to execute an agreement granting them the bulk of the residual assets.

The probate court granted the heir's motion to set aside the agreement and the Court of Appeal affirmed.

Analyzing the scope of the probate court's authority under former Probate Code section 1020.1, the appellate court declared that, while generally "the compromise and release of a claim advanced in good faith is a good and valuable consideration which suffices to support a compromise agreement, even though later developments may prove the claim to have been ill-founded," "in the compromise of a claim to an estate falling within the scope of former ... section 1020.1, the usual rule has been modified by statute, and the court is specifically directed to inquire into the reasonableness of the consideration in the compromise--that is to say, value received, in relation to value given." (Estate of Freeman, supra, 238 Cal.App.2d at p. 490.)

Thus, under the statute, "The probate court can set the entire agreement aside, or it can modify it to the extent it finds the consideration grossly unreasonable. " (Id. at pp. 489-490.)