Eddy v. Eddy (In re Eddy's Estate)

CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
Citation281 Mass. 156,183 N.E. 268
PartiesEDDY et al. v. EDDY et al. In re EDDY'S ESTATE.
Decision Date30 November 1932

281 Mass. 156
183 N.E. 268

EDDY et al.
EDDY et al.

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk.

Nov. 30, 1932.

Appeal from Probate Court, Suffolk County; A. W. Dolan, Judge.

Petition by John Lodge Eddy and another, executors of the estate of Lydia H. Eddy, deceased, against John L. Eddy and others. From an adverse decree, named respondent appeals.

Decree modified, and, as modified, affirmed.

[281 Mass. 157]J. H. Powers, of Boston, for John L. Eddy.

W. B. Grant and W. M. Morgan, both of Boston, for George F. Eddy and another.

C. C. Bucknam, of Boston, for Helen F. Wheelwright.

J. H. Rogers, of Boston, for Mary L. Wisham and others.


John L. Eddy and George B. Hayward, executors of the will of Lydia H. Eddy, who died unmarried on April 14, 1930, at the age of eighty-nine, brought a petition in the probate court for the determination of the title to deposits in four savings banks standing in the names of Lydia H. Eddy and her nephew John L. Eddy. All these deposits were on ‘Joint Account, payable to either or the survivor.’ All the heirs at law of Miss Eddy including John L. Eddy, who, as executor, is also one of the petitioners,[281 Mass. 158]and the four savings banks are parties respondent. In all there were eight deposits, aggregating $19,000, of moneys belonging to Miss Eddy, made in the four joint accounts, the first deposit having been made on January 20, 1928, and the last on November 7, 1929. The probate judge found that the deposits were procured to be made in that form by undue influence exercised by John L. Eddy and that the amounts so deposited were assets of the estate of Lydia H. Eddy. A decree was entered ordering that the four savings banks pay to the executors the amount of the deposits respectively held by them with the accumulations thereon. From this decree John L. Eddy has appealed to this court. The probate judge heard oral testimony and all the evidence is reported. Therefore this court, on appeal, is required to examine the evidence and decide the case upon its own judgment, but such of the findings of the probate judge as are based on oral testimony cannot here be reversed unless they are plainly wrong or based upon some error of law. Draper v. Draper, 267 Mass. 528, 531, 166 N. E. 874;Moss v. Old Colony Trust Co., 246 Mass. 139, 144, 140 N. E. 803;Johnson v. O'Lalor (Mass.) 180 N. E. 525. As is often the fact in cases of this kind there was no direct evidence of undue influence, but its nature is such that it ‘may be exercised in indirect and underhanded ways difficult to be come at, and to be judged of only by their results.’

[183 N.E. 269]

Hoffman v. Hoffman, 192 Mass. 416, 419, 78 N. E. 492, 493. The question here to be decided is whether the finding of undue influence made by the probate judge is justified by the evidence of the attendant circumstances. Raposa v. Oliveira, 247 Mass. 188, 190, 141 N. E. 870.

1. There was evidence which warranted the finding that Miss Eddy was in a condition and of a temperament to be susceptible to influence exerted by her nephew, the appellant. She was afflicted with paralysis agitans since 1921, and this affected her more and more as time went on. In January, 1928, when the first deposit on joint account was made, she was about eighty-seven years old, very feeble, ‘quite broken,’ her head shook constantly; she had very little use of her limbs, had great difficulty in walking and in eating; her whole body was affected by the disease; her [281 Mass. 159]eyes troubled her, newspapers had to be read to her, she could not read fine print. Prior to February, 1928, she had been cared for by a maid who for twenty years had taken all the responsibility for the management of her home and on whom Miss Eddy was very dependent. In February, 1928, her condition was such that she was cared for by a domestic nurse who thereafter lived with her until her death. She never took any responsibility in financial matters. For years she had not looked after her own financial affairs. Those had been managed for her by some one of her several brothers and when the last of them, the appellant's father, died in 1924, the appellant took his place. She was a woman of marked loyalty to her family, she trusted every member of it in everything, she believed what any of them told her. The susceptibility of a person, his ‘liability * * * to be easily affected by * * * undue influence’ (Shailer v. Bumstead, 99 Mass. 112, 121) is a circumstance which is important in determining whether undue influence has been exercised upon him. Neill v. Brackett, 234 Mass. 367, 369, 126 N. E. 93;McMann v. Murphy, 259 Mass. 397, 401, 156 N. E. 680. On the evidence of Miss Eddy's dependent temperament when well or ill, her marked enfeeblement through age and through disease and her absolute trust in any of her kindred, we cannot say the judge erred if he found that she was susceptible to influence by her nephew, the appellant.

2. There was evidence which warranted the finding that the depositing of $19,000 in joint accounts was not under the circumstances a natural disposition by Miss Eddy of such a sum which was a considerable part of her fortune. She needed the income on all her property, including the amount deposited in the joint accounts, to meet her living expenses. The appellant testified that his understanding was that his aunt did not make the deposits in the joint accounts in view of the services that he was rendering her but as a gift. Her social relations with the families of others of her next of kin seem to have been more frequent and more intimate than those with the appellant and his family. Her will as...

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29 cases
  • Blanchette v. Blanchette
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • September 19, 1972
    ...to make a present completed gift of a joint interest in the account. Thus we have upheld findings of undue influence. Eddy v. Eddy, 281 Mass. 156, 163--164, 183 N.E. 268; McDonald v. MacNeil, 300 Mass. 350, 352--354, 15 N.E.2d 460. Compare Burns v. Paquin, 345 Mass. 329, 331, 187 N.E.2d 139......
  • In re The Bible Speaks, Bankruptcy No. 86-40392JFQ.
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. First Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — District of Massachusetts
    • May 19, 1987
    ...evidence of undue influence is often unavailable. See Miles v. Caples, 362 Mass. 107, 112, 284 N.E.2d 231, 235 (1972); Eddy v. Eddy, 281 Mass. 156, 158, 183 N.E. 268, 268-69 (1932); Woodbury v. Woodbury, 141 Mass. 329, 333, 5 N.E. 275, 280 (1886). The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts......
  • In re Love, Bankruptcy No. 93-33469(2)13. Adv. No. 94-3080.
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Sixth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Western District of Kentucky
    • May 5, 1995
    ...matters is additionally a factor which supports the inference of undue influence. The Bible Speaks, 869 F.2d at 642; Eddy v. Eddy, 281 Mass. 156, 183 N.E. 268, 269 (1932). In this case, Defendant, herself, gave extensive testimony regarding Plaintiff's inexperience with financial matters. D......
  • Shaw v. Victoria Coach Line, Inc.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • June 29, 1943
    ...York Cent. & H. R. R. Co., 160 Mass. 447, 36 N.E. 65,39 Am.St.Rep. 504;Neill v. Brackett, 241 Mass. 534, 537, 135 N.E. 690;Eddy v. Eddy, 281 Mass. 156, 159, 183 N.E. 268. The jury could find that the adjuster did not state that the paper was a release of her claim for personal injuries caus......
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