This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
A contract to make a will can not be broken by non-performance until the death of the testator,1 since the testator has the whole of his life in which to perform. As in the case of other contracts,2 his renunciation of such a contract during his lifetime confers an immediate right of action upon the promisee.3 A contract to make a will is broken when the testator dies without making a will in substantial com-pliance with the terms of such contract.4 Such breach may occur where testator dies without making a will at all;5 or where he executes a will but fails to comply with the Wills Act;6 or where he devises property of substantially less value than he had agreed to devise;7 or where he devises a less estate than he had agreed to devise;8 or where the will is executed so short a time before his death that, under the local Wills Act, the gift fails, as in case of a gift to a charity.9 The fact that he does not comply with the terms of the contract in the belief that the provision which he actually makes will be more beneficial to the promisee than the provision which is required by the terms of the contract,10 as where he devises property to the children of the promisee, to keep the promisee's husband from wasting it,11 does not prevent such non-compliance from amounting to a breach.
Wisconsin. Great Northern' Ry. v. Hocking Valley Fire Clay Co., 166 Wis. 465, 166 N. W. 41.
9 Fletcher v. Verser, 79 Ark. 271, 116 Am. St. Rep. 76, 96 S. W. 384.
I Bolman v. Overall, 80 Ala. 451, 60 Am. Rep. 107; Skinner v. Rasche, 165 Ky. 108, 176 S. W. 942; Maud v. Maud, 33 O. S. 147.
2 See Sec. 2885 et seq.
3 Van Dyne v. Vreeland, 11 N. J. Eq. 370; Duvale v. Duvale, 54 N. J. Eq. 581, 35 Atl. 750; Parsell v. Stryker, 41 N. Y. 480 (obiter).
4 Massachusetts. Mills v. Smith, 193 Mass. 11, 6 L. R. A. (N.S.) 865, 78 N. E. 765.
Montana. Burns v. Smith, 21 Mont. 251, 53 Pac. 742.
New Jersey. Riley v. Allen, 54 N. J. Eq. 495; Lawrence v. Prosser, 88 N. J. Eq. 43, 101 AtL 1040.
New York. Phalen v. United States Trust Co., 186 N. Y. 178, 7 L. R. A. (N.S.) 734, 78 N. E. 943.
North Carolina. Earnhardt v. Clement, 137 N. Car. 91, 49 S. E. 49.
Pennsylvania. In re Hoffner's Estate, 161 Pa. St. 331, 29 Atl. 33.
Tennessee. Green v. Orgain (Tenn. Ch.), 46 S. W. 477.
See, however, as to an indefinite contract of this sort, Bunting v. Dobson, 125 Ga. 447, 54 S. E. 102.
5 Milk v. Smith, 193 Mass. 11, 6 L. R. A. (N.S.) 865, 78 N. E. 765 (failure to make codicil in accordance with contract).
6 Green v. Orgain (Tenn. Ch.), 46 S. W. 477.
7 Phalen v. United States Trust Co., 186 N. Y. 178, 7 L. R. A. (N.S.) 734, 78 N. E. 943 (contract for absolute gift, devise in trust).
8 Lawrence v. Prosser, 88 N. J. Eq. 43, 101 Atl. 1040; Earnhardt v. Clement, 137 N. Car. 91, 49 S. E. 49.
9 In re Hoffner's Estate, 161 Pa. St 331, 29 Atl. 33.