In Re Hatten’s Estate

288 N.W. 278 (Wis. 1939)


The claimant is a 64-year-old widow of Monsted. Monsted was a physician in New London for many years prior to his death, which occurred in 1932. She has two sons, Robert and John. William Hatten prior to his death on March 30, 1937, was engaged as a lumberman and resided in New London during the greater part of his life. He was a successful businessman. Hatten never married and left an estate appraised at over $3 million. Hatten and the claimant were not related by blood or marriage. Hatten and the claimant were close personal friends for more than 25 years. There is no dispute that Hatten was a welcome guest in the Monsted home. During the years preceding his death, Hatten was at the home 3-4 times per week and in many respects treated the home as his own. Hatten did not have a car and was transported frequently by the Monsteds. Claimant testified that Hatten expressed his appreciation and stated that someday she would be paid well for such services. At trial, claimant introduced a note with testimony that no part of it had been paid. The note was for $25,000 to be paid from Hatten’s estate. Claimant admitted that she had loaned Hatten no money. The note was executed on January 21, 1937, and the evidence showed that Hatten did it for the nice things that the claimant had done for him in the past. The note was in effect a cognovit note that confessed judgment for the amount stated. The trial court found for claimant, and the Estate appealed.