Posted on Aug 05, 2020


Vermont’s high court rules that a contract for mutual wills does not invalidate a subsequently executed will, but finds that public policy supports enforcement of breach-of-contract claims. In re Estate of Patricia Bixby McHugo (Vt., No. 2019-257, July 10, 2020).

In 1997, the testator, Patricia Bixby McHugo, and her then-husband each executed mutual wills in Arizona.  The wills established testamentary trusts for the support of the other during his or her lifetime and provided that the assets remaining after their deaths would be divided equally among their three children.  In 2006, Ms. McHugo executed a new will in Vermont that explicitly revoked all prior wills and removed her ex-husband and their third child, Susan Inouye, as beneficiaries.

Ms. McHugo died in 2016 while a resident of Vermont and her estate was probated.  Her ex-husband predeceased her, having died in 2010.  A special administrator motioned the court to allow the 2006 will and Ms. Inouye objected, asserting that she had filed pending contractual claims in Arizona courts related to the will.  Later, she motioned the probate court to allow the 1997 will and to disallow the 2006 will, arguing that the later will was invalid because it breached the contract for mutual wills.

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