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Estate of Brittin

    Brief Fact Summary. Petitioners filed a claim against decedent’s estate seeking compensation for personal services performed for the decedent during her lifetime. Respondent and executor of decedent’s estate alleges that summary judgment is proper as the Petitioners were already paid for their services when he turned over CDs that the parties held as joint tenants with right of survivorship.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Services performed by non-family members for a decedent are presumed not gratuitous and entitled to compensation from the decedent’s estate. Property transferred by joint tenants with right of survivorship is presumed to be a gift.

    Facts. Petitioners were friends and neighbors of the decedent and not related to her. They performed services for her between January 1980 and October 1987 including lawn care, painting, driving on personal errands, etc…The decedent passed away and her will was admitted to probate and Petitioners filed a claim against the estate for $25,000 for the personal services. Respondent filed a motion for summary judgment against the Petitioner’s claim. The motion alleged that pursuant to decedent’s will Respondent delivered CDs totaling $25,475 to Petitioners which paid for the personal services. The CDs were held as joint tenants with right of survivorship and the executor was instructed in the will to deliver them to the joint tenants named on the CDs. Petitioners filed a response alleging that despite receiving the CDs the decedent had an intent to have her estate pay them for the services beyond the amounts of the CDs.
    Issue. Is Respondent entitled to summary judgment? As a matter of law where the CDs, which decedent and Petitioner held as joint tenants with right of survivorship, payment for the personal services rendered to the decedent?

    Held. No. Based on several legal presumptions and the lack of evidence to show a connection the CDs received by the Petitioners were a gift and therefore Petitioners have a valid claim against the decedent’s estate for the value of the services performed.

    Discussion. It is presumed that services knowingly and voluntarily accepted by a person during their lifetime from non-family members are not gratuitous and are entitled to compensation. It is also presumed that property transferred by joint tenancy with right of survivorship is a gift. With bare allegations and no evidence Petitioner was entitled to rely on these presumptions and avoid Respondent’s motion for summary judgment.


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