Washington Law Review




Plaintiff, surviving member of a thirteen year meretricious relationship with defendant's decedent, brought an action to establish a half-interest in the estate, consisting of both real and personal property. She stated alternative theories of recovery—including resulting trust, partnership, joint venture, and a pooling agreement—all but the first being contractually based. Although most of the assets of the estate were accumulated during their cohabitation, plaintiff was unable to prove by "clear, cogent, and convincing" evidence the existence of any significant monetary investment from her personal funds. The evidence indicated that her contribution to the accumulated assets consisted primarily of labor, including assisting her partner, a masonry contractor, in building, finishing, and landscaping their home, and in some of his commercial ventures. The trial court, in denying recovery, found that no specific agreement existed, and that it was impossible to trace the funds used to purchase the property. On appeal, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed, over vigorous dissents, in a 5-4 decision. Held: When title to property acquired during a meretricious relationship is held by a decedent, the survivor who seeks to establish a half-interest in the property, but is unable to demonstrate a contractual arrangement, will be unable to recover the value of services and labor contributed to the property, and such labor and services will be deemed a gift to the decedent. Humphries v. Riveland, 67 Wash. Dec. 2d 371, 407 P.2d 967 (1965).

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