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Ernest v. Chumley

Illinois Court of Appeals
936 N.E.2d 602 (2010)


Robert and Dorothy Sonneborn were married, and each had children from prior marriages. In 2000, the Sonneborns executed mutual wills providing that upon the death of one of them, the decedent’s property would go to the other. The wills also provided that upon the death of the surviving Sonneborn, the property would be split evenly among the aforementioned children. Finally, the wills stated that upon the first party’s death, the survivor’s will would become irrevocable. In 2003, Robert died. Soon after, Dorothy drafted a new will, leaving all of her property to her children. In December 2004, Dorothy married Thomas Chumley (defendant) and drafted another new will, leaving her property to Chumley. In October 2004, Robert’s children, Deborah and John (plaintiffs), filed suit seeking a determination that Dorothy’s 2000 will was irrevocable and seeking an imposition of a constructive trust on Robert’s assets when he died. The suit also sought to prohibit Dorothy from certain uses of Robert’s assets, including selling a home that the Sonneborns had jointly owned. In 2006, Dorothy sold the home and placed the funds in three certificates of deposit (CDs) that she held jointly with Chumley. The trial court held that the 2000 will was irrevocable but denied the request for a constructive trust. Deborah and John appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Steigmann, J.)

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