Brownell v. Union & New Haven Trust Co.

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtBALDWIN
Citation143 Conn. 662,124 A.2d 901
PartiesHerbert BROWNELL, Jr., Attorney General of the United States of America v. The UNION AND NEW HAVEN TRUST COMPANY, Administrator D.B.N., C.T.A. In re ESTATE of Anna E. HARTMANN. Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut
Decision Date24 July 1956

Page 901

124 A.2d 901
143 Conn. 662
Herbert BROWNELL, Jr., Attorney General of the United States of America
v.
The UNION AND NEW HAVEN TRUST COMPANY, Administrator D.B.N.,
C.T.A. In re ESTATE of Anna E. HARTMANN.
Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut.
July 24, 1956.

[143 Conn. 663]

Page 903

Myron C. Baum, Washington, D. C., of the District of Columbia bar, with whom were Henry C. Stone, Asst. U. S. Atty., Hartford, Conn., and, on the brief, Dallas S. Townsend, Asst. Atty. Gen., Simon S. Cohen, U. S. Atty., Hartford, Conn., James D. Hill, Washington, D. C., of the Iowa bar, George B. Searls, Washington, D. C., of the District of Columbia bar, and Westley W. Silvian, Washington, D. C., of the Minnesota bar, for appellant (plaintiff).

[143 Conn. 664] Jeremiah D. Shea, New Haven, Conn., for appellee (defendant).

Before [143 Conn. 662] BALDWIN, O'SULLIVAN, WYNNE and DALY, JJ., and COMLEY, Superior Court Judge.

[143 Conn. 664] BALDWIN, Associate Justice.

On January 28, 1952, the plaintiff, attorney general of the United States and successor to the alien property custodian, acting under the authority conferred upon him by an act of Congress known as the Trading with the Enemy Act, 40 Stat. 411, as amended, 50 U.S.C.App. §§ 1-40 (Sup.1956) [50 U.S.C.A.Appendix, §§ 1-40], and by presidential

Page 904

executive orders made pursuant thereto, issued an order which purported to vest in himself immediately the interests of certain German nationals who were legatees under the will of Anna E. Hartmann, deceased. Vesting Order No. 18727, 17 Fed.Reg. 976. The plaintiff claimed that their shares in the estate were property which should be delivered to him by virtue of this order, a copy which was filed in the Probate Court for the district of Middletown. The Probate Court treated the vesting order and a letter of transmittal accompanying it as an application for an order of distribution to the plaintiff and refused to issue the order. The plaintiff appealed to the Superior Court, which rendered judgment sustaining the Probate Court. The plaintiff has appealed from this judgment.

The facts are not in dispute. Anna E. Hartmann, a Middletown resident, died testate on September 8, 1922, leaving her husband, Peter Hartmann, surviving. She named him as executor of her will and gave her estate to nephews and nieces, children of her two sisters, subject to a life use in her husband. One of the sisters was then living and the other was deceased. Peter died in West Haven on August 2, 1948. His will was duly probated, and his executor surrendered the property which he had held as a life tenant to the estate of his wife, Anna. On December [143 Conn. 665] 27, 1949, upon the application of The Union and New Haven Trust Company, administrator d.b.n., c.t.a., and after due notice, the Probate Court for the district of Middletown made an ascertainment of the distributees of Anna's estate, together with their respective shares, but failed to order distribution to them. These distributees, Anna's nephews and nieces, were, with two exceptions, German nationals residing in Germany.

The Probate Court, in refusing to issue an order of distribution to the plaintiff, ruled, in effect, that the decree of December 27, 1949, ascertaining the distributees of Anna's estate determined the question of the title of the legatees and rendered res adjudicata the question who is entitled to distribution. The first decisive issue is whether the Probate Court was correct in that ruling. If it was not, the second decisive issue is whether it was required to act upon the vesting order filed by the plaintiff.

Our probate courts have a limited jurisdiction. Their powers are conferred by statute. General Statutes, § 6813; 1 Locke & Kohn, Conn. Probate Practice, § 38. No question of the jurisdiction of the Probate Court over the parties or the subject matter is raised here. Unquestionably, the court had the power to enter a decree ascertaining the distributees under Anna's will and ordering distribution to them. General Statutes, § 7056; Killen v. Klebanoff, 140 Conn. 111, 117, 98 A.2d 520; Culver v. Union & New Haven Trust Co., 120 Conn. 97, 102, 179 A. 487, 99 A.L.R. 663. The court also had the jurisdiction and the power to determine incidental questions so far as necessary to enable it to reach a correct conclusion in the administration of the estate. General Statutes, § 7056; Mack's Appeal, 71 Conn. 122, 130, 41 A. 242; 1 Locke & Kohn, op. cit., p. 173; Ministers & Missionaries Benefit Board, etc., v. [143 Conn. 666] Meriden Trust & Safe Deposit Co., 139 Conn. 435, 449, 94 A.2d 917; Culver v. Union & New Haven Trust Co., supra; Chase National Bank of New York City v. Schleussner, 117 Conn. 370, 376, 167 A. 808. A probate court may find to whom title belongs, but only, in a case such as the one at bar, as an incidental step in exercising its power to determine distributees and order distribution. The legality of the conclusion reached by the court on the question of title can be attacked later in an independent proceeding in a court properly exercising legal and equitable powers. Homer's Appeal, 35 Conn. 113, 114; Hewitt's Appeal, 53 Conn. 24, 37, 1 A. 815; Mack's Appeal, 71 Conn. 122, 131, 41 A. 242; Wilson v. Warner, 84 Conn. 560, 565, 80 A. 718; 1 Locke & Kohn, op. cit., §§ 90, 93, 140-141, 155; 2 id. § 596.

Page 905

The decree of December 27, 1949, did not order distribution but merely purported to ascertain distributees. The ascertainment of distributees is incidental to an order of distribution. Mack's Appeal, supra, 71 Conn. 129, 41 A. 242; Hotchkiss' Appeal, 89 Conn. 420, 429, 95 A. 26; Slattery v. Woodin, 90 Conn. 48, 52, 96 A. 178. Standing alone, it is improper and unnecessary. Chase v. Benedict, 72 Conn. 322, 328, 44 A. 507; 2 Locke & Kohn, op. cit. §§ 596, 605. We conclude that the decree of December 27, 1949, did not make the issue of title to the distributive shares res adjudicata and that the failure of the Probate Court to include an order of distribution leaves the matter of distribution still subject to an order of that court.

We pass now to consideration of the second issue. The plaintiff claims that the Probate Court should order distribution to him. He argues that, irrespective of its powers under Connecticut law, the Probate Court, as a matter of constitutional law, is bound to enforce his vesting order. An act of Congress and [143 Conn. 667] executive orders authorized, as a war measure, the appointment of an alien property custodian who was directed and empowered to seize property of every description in the United States belonging to the nationals of every country with which our country was at war. 40 Stat. 415, 418, as amended, 50 U.S.C.App. §§ 5(b)(1), 6, 7(c) [50 U.S.C.A.Appendix, §§ 5(b)(1), 6, 7(c)]; Exec. Order No. 9095, 3 C.F.R.Cum.Sup. (1943) 1121, as amended, Exec. Order No. 9193, 3 C.F.R.Cum.Sup. (1943) 1174, 50 U.S.C.A.Appendix, § 6 note....

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14 practice notes
  • In re Michaela Lee R., (SC 16122)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 11, 2000
    ...(1985); Palmer v. Hartford National Bank & Trust Co., 160 Conn. 415, 428, 279 A.2d 726 (1971); Brownell v. Union & New Haven Trust Co., 143 Conn. 662, 665, 124 A.2d 901 (1956); Killen v. Klebanoff, 140 Conn. 111, 115, 98 A.2d 520 (1953); Potter v. Alcorn, 140 Conn. 96, 100, 99 A.2d 97 (1953......
  • In re Joshua S., (SC 16561).
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • May 14, 2002
    ...n. 18]; Palmer v. Hartford National Bank & Trust Co., 160 Conn. 415, 428, 279 A.2d 726 (1971); Brownell v. Union & New Haven Trust Co., 143 Conn. 662, 665, 124 A.2d 901 (1956); Killen v. Klebanoff, 140 Conn. 111, 115, 98 A.2d 520 (1953); Potter v. Alcorn, 140 Conn. 96, 100, 99 A.2d 97 (1953......
  • Palmer v. Hartford Nat. Bank & Trust Co.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • February 23, 1971
    ...to a distribution which is before the Probate Court, however, that court may decide title. Brownell v. Union & New Haven Trust Co., 143 Conn. 662, 666, 124 A.2d 901; Wilson v. Warner, supra. Similarly, the Probate Court may not decide equities unless they are incidental to a matter before O......
  • Chase Manhattan Bank v. Commissioner of Revenue Services, No. CV960560970
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Connecticut
    • December 5, 1997
    ...far as necessary to enable it to reach a correct conclusion in the administration of the estate." Brownell v. Union New Haven Trust Co., 143 Conn. 662, 665, 124 A.2d 901 In that the trustee is amenable to service in Connecticut and the situs of the trust is in Connecticut, Connecticut law a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
14 cases
  • In re Michaela Lee R., (SC 16122)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 11, 2000
    ...(1985); Palmer v. Hartford National Bank & Trust Co., 160 Conn. 415, 428, 279 A.2d 726 (1971); Brownell v. Union & New Haven Trust Co., 143 Conn. 662, 665, 124 A.2d 901 (1956); Killen v. Klebanoff, 140 Conn. 111, 115, 98 A.2d 520 (1953); Potter v. Alcorn, 140 Conn. 96, 100, 99 A.2d 97 (1953......
  • In re Joshua S., (SC 16561).
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • May 14, 2002
    ...n. 18]; Palmer v. Hartford National Bank & Trust Co., 160 Conn. 415, 428, 279 A.2d 726 (1971); Brownell v. Union & New Haven Trust Co., 143 Conn. 662, 665, 124 A.2d 901 (1956); Killen v. Klebanoff, 140 Conn. 111, 115, 98 A.2d 520 (1953); Potter v. Alcorn, 140 Conn. 96, 100, 99 A.2d 97 (1953......
  • Palmer v. Hartford Nat. Bank & Trust Co.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • February 23, 1971
    ...to a distribution which is before the Probate Court, however, that court may decide title. Brownell v. Union & New Haven Trust Co., 143 Conn. 662, 666, 124 A.2d 901; Wilson v. Warner, supra. Similarly, the Probate Court may not decide equities unless they are incidental to a matter before O......
  • Chase Manhattan Bank v. Commissioner of Revenue Services, No. CV960560970
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Connecticut
    • December 5, 1997
    ...far as necessary to enable it to reach a correct conclusion in the administration of the estate." Brownell v. Union New Haven Trust Co., 143 Conn. 662, 665, 124 A.2d 901 In that the trustee is amenable to service in Connecticut and the situs of the trust is in Connecticut, Connecticut law a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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