Would-Be Caregiver Not Entitled to Property Left to Her in Will

A Tennessee appeals court rules that a woman who cared for a man while he was hospitalized is not entitled to his property because he left it to her on the condition that she care for him at his residence in order to keep him out of a nursing home. Albright v. Button (Tenn. Ct. App., No. E2003-01591-COA-R3-CV, July 20, 2004).

Lloyd A. Button, a widower, executed his last will and testament on April 1, 2002, while he was hospitalized. In the will, he left his home, one of his cars and most of his other tangible property to Patricia Albright. Ms. Albright had been Mr. Button's housecleaner and had provided some care services, all for a fee. The pair also were romantically involved for an unspecified period of time.

The will stated that the bequest to Ms. Albright was conditioned on her providing personal assistance and caregiving services to Mr. Button "at my residence until my death because I did not want to become a patient in a nursing home." If Ms. Albright did not meet this condition, Mr. Button's property would go to his sister and other parties.

Mr. Button died one week after executing his will, having never left the hospital. Ms. Albright sued the personal representatives of Mr. Button's estate, claiming she was entitled to the property left to her in the will. While acknowledging that she had not provided care at Mr. Button's home, she said she had overseen his care while he was hospitalized and had provided numerous personal care services during that brief time. This, combined with her intention to care for him once he returned home, Ms. Albright maintained, was enough to satisfy the conditions in the will. The trial court agreed and ruled in Ms. Albright's favor. The personal representatives of Mr. Button's estate appealed.

The Court of Appeals of Tennessee reverses the lower court's decision, finding that Ms. Albright failed to meet the conditions in Mr. Button's will. The court rules that the conditions in the will could only be satisfied if Mr. Button had left the hospital and Ms. Albright had cared for him at his residence, as specified in the will. "It matters not that Ms. Albright was never afforded an opportunity to furnish the services stated in the will," the court writes. ". . . Regardless of why they were not performed, it remains that they were not."

To download the full text of this decision in PDF format, go to: https://www.tsc.state.tn.us/opinions/tca/PDF/043/AlbrightP.pdf.
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