204 U.S. 538 (1907), 164, Hammond v. Whittredge

Docket Nº:No. 164
Citation:204 U.S. 538, 27 S.Ct. 396, 51 L.Ed. 606
Party Name:Hammond v. Whittredge
Case Date:February 25, 1907
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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204 U.S. 538 (1907)

27 S.Ct. 396, 51 L.Ed. 606

Hammond

v.

Whittredge

No. 164

United States Supreme Court

February 25, 1907

Argued January 17, 1907

ERROR TO THE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT

OF THE STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS

Syllabus

Where the state court expressly decides, adversely to contention of plaintiff in error, that a statute of the United States does not preclude others from asserting rights against him, but does preclude him from asserting rights against them, a federal question exists giving this Court jurisdiction to review the judgment under § 709, Rev.Stat.

Where an incorporeal interest of the bankrupt in a contingent remainder passed to the assignee in bankruptcy under a petition filed in 1878, and no notice to the trustees was necessary, the fact that the assignee brought no suit to establish his right to the bankrupt's interest in the fund for more than two years does not bar his claim thereto under § 5057, Rev.Stat., but, under that section, all persons who had not brought suits within two years against the assignee to assert their rights to the property are barred. Nor will the assignee be presumed to have abandoned the property simply because he did not sell it when, as in this case, he brings an action to protect his interest therein.

189 Mass. 45 affirmed.

The defendant in error, Whittredge, who was trustee of certain property held in trust under the will of Solon O. Richardson, who died in 1873, filed this bill for instructions in the Supreme Judicial Court of the State of Massachusetts.

There was bequeathed by said will $35,000, on the following trusts:

The income to be paid to his three sisters for life, namely

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Mary A. Sweetser, Martha Hutchinson, and Louisa Richardson, and

at the decease of my said sisters, or either of them, my will is that the share belonging to the deceased sister shall revert to her children, to be shared by them each and each alike; if either of my said sisters shall die childless, the income belonging to her I direct shall revert to the said sisters surviving, to be shared equally between them. At the decease of all my three said sisters, I direct that the fund from which they have derived an income from my property be divided equally between the children of my said sisters, and I direct my executors to pay to them each their respective part, the same to be the property of the children of my said sisters forever.

The three life tenants survived the testator. Louisa never had any child; Martha Hutchinson had one child; Mary A. Sweetser had one child, a son, Elbridge L. Sweetser. He and the child of Martha were born in the lifetime of the testator. Mary A. Sweetser survived her sisters, leaving her son and niece surviving her.

This bill was brought February 1, 1901, to determine who was entitled to receive Elbridge L. Sweetser's half of the fund -- whether his assignees in bankruptcy, appointed in proceedings instituted by him in 1878 by voluntary petition in bankruptcy in the District Court of the United States for the district of Massachusetts, or the plaintiff in error, who claims, under an equitable attachment made in 1881, as hereafter stated, and an assignment made in October, 1885, to secure two debts incurred after Sweetser's bankruptcy. There are other defendants besides the plaintiff in error, but their rights are not before us.

The facts are stipulated, and the most pertinent are the following:

On February 23, 1878, Elbridge L. Sweetser filed a voluntary petition in bankruptcy in the District Court of the United States, District of Massachusetts, and was, on that day, adjudged a bankrupt. On the sixteenth of March, 1878,

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William B. H. Dowse and Horace P. Biddle were appointed the assignees of his estate, and there was duly conveyed to them all the estate which the bankrupt owned or was entitled to on February 23, 1878.

During the year 1878, claims amounting to $13,940.47 were proved against the estate. No other claims have since been proved.

The only assets disclosed by Sweetser in his schedules consisted of a stock of goods subject to mortgage. The proceeds of these goods were consumed in paying the mortgage and certain expenses of the assignees, and the balance of about $280 was paid to the assignees on account of services.

The Florence Machine Company, in 1881, filed a bill in equity against Elbridge L. Sweetser and Solon O. Richardson, then the sole trustee of Solon O. Richardson, deceased, to reach and apply in payment of five notes held by that company against Sweetser, his equitable interest under the [27 S.Ct. 398] will of said deceased. The suit was brought under the provision of General Statutes of Massachusetts, c. 113, § 2, and is called equity suit No. 386. Subpoena was issued November 28, 1881, and served on Sweetser and Richardson, trustee, November 29, 1881. Sweetser filed an answer February 1, 1882, in which, among other things, he denied that he had any such interest...

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