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Estate of Frances Cleveland v. Gorden

Citation. Estate of Frances Cleveland v. Gorden, 837 S.W.2d 68 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1992)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Gorden sought reimbursement for the expenses incurred when she assumed care of her sickly aunt, Frances Cleveland. 

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

A relative who pays the debt of another due to moral obligation is entitled to reimbursement. 


Gorden took care of her elderly, sick aunt, Frances Cleveland (Cleveland) and placed her in a nursing home some time after Cleveland was in her care. Cleveland’s bank informed Gorden that she could be reimbursed for assuming care of her aunt if she kept a detailed record of her expenses. Cleveland knew that Gorden was using her own finances to support Cleveland, and told a friend that Gorden will receive all of her assets if she passed away. When Cleveland died, Gorden sought reimbursement of her expenditures against Gordon’s estate, and the trial court denied Gorden’s claim. Gorden appealed. 


Whether a relative who pays the debt of a family member is entitled to reimbursement?


Yes. Cleveland knew that Gorden did not expect for any payments made to be gratuituous. Additionally, Cleveland and Gorden were not close relatives, nor did they live in the same household; Gorden kept detailed records of her expenditures to receive reimbursements from Cleveland’s bank. The judgment of the trial court is reversed. 


Assuming care of a family member who lives in the same household is considered to be a gift unless the benefitting party known or should have known that the party assuming care expected payment or reimbursement. 

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