12 Mich. 459 (Mich. 1864), Beaubien v. Cicotte
|Citation:||12 Mich. 459|
|Opinion Judge:||Campbell J.:|
|Party Name:||Julia Beaubien and others v. Mary A. Cicotte and others|
|Attorney:||Howard, for proponents, Newberry & Pond and J. M. Howard, for plaintiffs in error [*] S. T. Douglass, for defendants in error:|
|Judge Panel:||Campbell, J. Martin, Ch. J. and Christiancy, J. Concurred. Manning, J. did not sit in this case.|
|Case Date:||July 15, 1864|
|Court:||Supreme Court of Michigan|
Heard May 17, 1864; May 18, 1864; May 19, 1864,
Error to Wayne Circuit.
Joseph A. Moross, Julia Beaubien and Rose J. Moross, presented to the Probate Court for the county of Wayne, for probate and allowance, an instrument dated January 12, 1858, purporting to be the last will and testament of Antoine Beaubien, and attested by Isaac S. Smith, Israel A. Moross and F. Provost, as subscribing witnesses. The will gave the whole of the property of the testator to his wife, Julia Beaubien, during her life time, with remainder to her children by a former marriage, Mary Millette, Rose J. Moross, Napoleon Millette, Joseph Millette and Israel Millette. Joseph A. Moross was named sole executor. On the hearing in the Probate Court, the will was disallowed, and the proponents appealed.
In the Circuit Court an issue was framed for trial by jury; the respondents, who were heirs at law of said Antoine Beaubien, denying generally the execution of the will, and also averring that at the time of the alleged execution thereof he was not of sound mind; that he was induced to sign it by undue influence exerted over him by said Julia Beaubien, now the wife of Thomas Coquillard, and others, at a time when both his mind and body were greatly enfeebled by old age and disease, and that the same was not his free, voluntary and intelligent act; and also that he was induced to sign the same by fraud and undue means. *
UNKNOWN *As to what it is necessary for the propounders to aver in framing such an issue, see this case, 8 Mich. 9.
The case, as presented in the Circuit Court, is so fully set forth in the opinion, that it is deemed unnecessary to give in this place anything except the testimony of Bishop LeFevre, upon which the principal questions in the case arose. This testimony was given after the subscribing witnesses had testified to the circumstances attending the execution of the will, and Robert P. and James B. Eldredge had been examined relative to the drafting of the same, and the instructions therefor.
Peter P. LeFevre, called for the contestants, testified as follows: "I knew Antoine Beaubien during his life time, from 1842 until his death. I have held the office of Bishop of Detroit for the Catholic church. Beaubien was a member of that church, and I was very intimately acquainted with him."
Witness then proceeded to state in detail the nature of his relations to Mr. Beaubien, for several years previous to his death, his degree of intimacy with him, and what business and other transactions they had together, all tending to show the nature and degree of Beaubien's mental capacity when in health; and also testified to his opinion as to said capacity.
And he further testified, in substance, that sometime in the year 1853, said Beaubien came to him, and complained of the conduct of Mr. Meldrum, who was then acting as his agent, attending to his affairs. He said that Meldrum had got him to sign some paper which divested him of all legal right to his property, and on account of which he (Beaubien) threatened to, and did afterwards, commence a suit against said Meldrum. That the Chicago Beaubiens were at the same time carrying on a suit against said Antoine and others, in relation to the title of his farm, and the old man appeared in much trouble.
That about this time said Antoine informed witness that Capt. Cicotte had advised him to sell his property, and had informed him that Van Dyke would purchase it. That Beaubien afterwards came to him, and said that Van Dyke offered him $ 54,000, but insisted upon his consulting with witness. That witness advised him to accept the offer. That papers were drawn. They were brought to witness's room, and witness explained them to Beaubien; and also that Van Dyke took the purchase subject to the litigation with Meldrum and that with the Chicago Beaubiens, and the papers were then executed. Witness afterwards saw Meldrum for Van Dyke, and assisted in settling the litigation with him.
And witness then further testified as follows: "After papers were signed by Mr. and Mrs. Beaubien, I told them they did not think very likely what they had done. That Mrs. Beaubien, by signing the deed, had signed away all right to his property. That if he, Mr. Beaubien, should die to-morrow, they might put his wife out of doors without any provision. He appeared to be startled. I said, I know you did not intend to leave her without provision. He said, no. I said it was for him to provide for her. He asked what he should do. I said, consider you were at the point of death, and do for her as you would then wish to do for her. I told him: your wife is yet young, and has five children. He asked me what he ought to give her. I said, it is for you to say. He asked me if $ 20,000 was sufficient. I said, yes. I then counseled him to leave the $ 20,000 to her children, so that they should have something when they became of age. He said he would do it. I told him, as he might die at any time, he had better do it before leaving my room. Van Dyke, J. M. Howard and Mandell were there, and the paper was drawn in my room, and executed by Mr. Beaubien."
Contestants' counsel here called upon Mr. Howard, proponents' counsel, to produce that agreement.
Mr. Howard replied that it was not in court, but explained that it was an agreement by Mr. Beaubien to settle $ 20,000 on his wife for life, and on her children after her death.
Question by contestants' counsel. Do you know what Mr. Beaubien claimed in regard to the Meldrum deed?
Answer. He complained various ways about it, and came frequently to see me about it. Don't know what he claimed, or how the deed was obtained. This deed was made without my knowledge. Meldrum also came to see me about it. Mr. Beaubien had frequently expressed to Meldrum his dissatisfaction. Meldrum came to me, and said Beaubien was coming also. They brought the papers. I read and explained them as well as time would permit. Beaubien was not satisfied. It was a trust-deed or contract. Can't say what Beaubien claimed as to how they were obtained. Beaubien came again and expressed dissatisfaction. And some three weeks afterwards he came again. Van D. said, as people talked so much, he was afraid that Beaubien might be dissatisfied, and he did not want to keep the trade if he was, and wanted to give back the papers, and every thing should be null and void.
And witness further testified as follows: "Shortly after the conveyance to Mr. Van Dyke, Mr. Beaubien came to see me again about a will. I said to him, Mr. Beaubien, you have never done much for your relations. You have educated some of them, but you have not left them much. Many of them are poor. I told him, I should be sorry for him to leave this world, and leave any of his relations with uncharitable feelings. That he had made no provision for them by will. I then counseled him to make a will. I then named several of the Beaubiens. I named Henry Beaubien, Louis Beaubien, and the family of Lambert Beaubien. I also mentioned Mrs. Dr. White, as the doctor had said that he had never given her anything. He mentioned Johnny Campau himself, some of the Labidies, others of the Lambert Beaubien family. I mentioned all the children of Lambert Beaubien. I believe he mentioned Veronique Cicotte, sister of Lambert Beaubien. He seemed to assent to what I said. Mr. Van Dyke came, I believe next day, to take the notes of the will to be drawn up. He took notes, and was to draw up the will at his room, and Mr. and Mrs. Beaubien were to go there. Afterwards, Van Dyke said they went to Howard's office." (A copy of the will of March 10, 1854, was here shown to witness, which Mr. Howard, counsel for the proponents, admitted to be a copy of the will drawn up by him.)
The witness, referring to this will, further testified: "I think the provisions of this will for the various members of the Beaubien family are about what we talked over at the interview. This conversation was some time after the Van Dyke transaction. I never knew anything about this will, except that Van Dyke told me that Howard had drawn up the will. Beaubien never talked with me about the will after that. I heard no more of any other will until after his death, and then I was surprised, because I never heard of it."
Said witness then further testified, as follows:
"I did not see Mr. Beaubien so often the fall before he died as prior to that time. Don't recollect of seeing him that fall before he was sick. I heard he was sick, and a few days after New Year's went to see him. He was sitting upon a settee in the sitting-room. Whether he was lying down, I can't say. I talked with him, and he was quite sick, very sallow as to complexion, and had no courage. He seemed to pick up a little when I spoke to him. Mrs. Beaubien presented us a couple of glasses of wine. I asked him to drink with me, and he said, I don't drink. He stood up when I drank my glass, and bowed, then sat down and conversed a little while. The conversation was a very common and uninteresting one, mostly...
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