Does a recording of a promise mean anything if one of the parties to it doesn’t keep their word?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Does a recording of a promise mean anything if one of the parties to it doesn’t keep their word?

My father was diagnosed with cancer and was first told he would have 2-3 years to live. He changed his life insurance to having my step mother getting 100% of the life insurance because they thought all of the bills and debt from the cancer treatments would amount to the full life insurance amount. The life insurance was first put at 70% going to the stepmother and 30% going to children by my father. He only lived about 3 1/2 weeks. My step mother stated she will still honor the 70/30 split between her and the kids because my father did not last 2-3 years and did not have all the expensive cancer treatments. I recorded the conversation on my cell phone because she tends to lie alot. After the funeral she stated she is moving out of state and will not give the children any of the life insurance money. Does the recording I have of her stating she will still honor the 70/30 split hold up at all? Is there anything I can do?

Asked on September 23, 2017 under Insurance Law, Utah


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

No, there is nothing you can do. The promise does not form an enforceable contract, since there was no "consideration" for it: your stepmother received nothing of value in exchange for the promise, since your stepmother receiving 100% of the insurance was not apparently contingent or dependent on her agreeing to pay some to the stepchildren; rather, he changed the policy to give her 100%  anyway. Therefore, she received nothing of value in exchange for promising to honor the former split, and a promise made without consideration is a "gratuitous"--or freely made--promises, which can be freely ignored or reneged upon. Only promises backed by the exchange of consideration form enforceable contracts.

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