In re Dorrance's Estate

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Writing for the CourtFRAZER, C. J.
Citation163 A. 303,309 Pa. 151
PartiesIn re DORRANCE'S ESTATE.
Decision Date26 September 1932
163 A. 303
309 Pa. 151

In re DORRANCE'S ESTATE. *

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

Sept. 26, 1932.


163 A. 304

KEPHART and SCHAFFER, JJ., dissenting.

Appeal from Orphans' Court, Delaware County; John B. Hannum, President Judge.

In the matter of the estate of John T. Dorrance, deceased. From a decree setting aside an appraisement of the estate for transfer inheritance tax purposes, the Commonwealth appeals.

Reversed, and appraisement reinstated, with modifications.

Argued before FRAZER, C. J., and SIMPSON, KEPHART, SCHAFFER, MAXEY, DREW, and LINN, JJ.

G. Harmon Webb, of Upper Darby, Francis Thomas Anderson and William A. Gray, both of Philadelphia, Herman J. Goldberg, Dep. Atty. Gen., and William A. Sehnader, Atty. Gen., for the Commonwealth.

Ellis Ames Ballard and Schofleld Andrews, both of Philadelphia, John B. Hannum, Jr., of Chester, and Robert von Moschzisker and Ballard, Spahr, Andrews & Ingersoll, all of Philadelphia, for appellee.

FRAZER, C. J.

This case comes before us on appeal by the Commonwealth from a decree of the orphans' court of Delaware county setting aside an appraisement of the estate of John T. Dorrance for transfer inheritance tax purposes. The decree of the court below was based upon a finding, after hearing, that decedent was domiciled in Cinnaminson township, Burlington county, N. J., and not in Pennsylvania.

The appeal was take under provisions of the Act of June 20, 1919, P. L. 521 (section 13 [72 PS § 2327]), and a preliminary question arises as to the scope of review in cases of this character. Appellees, who are executors of Dorrance's estate, contend that, although, under the Act of April 18, 1919, P. L. 72 (12 PS § 1165), the testimony becomes part of the record, upon an appeal on certiorari "we cannot weigh conflicting evidence further than to determine whether the decree appealed from is supported by any evidence and whether the court or judge had jurisdiction or authority to do the act complained of"—citing Walker's Appeal, 294 Pa. 385, 389,144 A. 288. While, in appeals on certiorari, this court will not usually overrule findings of fact which have evidence to support them, nevertheless we will review conclusions of law based upon undisputed facts. Hand's Case, 266 Pa. 277, 109 A. 692. The determination of decedent's domicile in this appeal is a conclusion of law, based upon facts, most of which are undisputed. Furthermore, this case falls within the rule stated in Hindman's Appeal, 85 Pa. 466, 470, that, when a finding of fact is simply a deduction from other facts reported by the tribunal under review, and the ultimate fact in question is purely the result of reasoning, we are competent to judge of its correctness and will draw our own conclusions from the facts as reported.

Dr. John T. Dorrance was born November 11, 1873, in Bristol, Bucks county, Pa., where he spent the early years of his life with his parents. In 1895 he graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, after which he attended the University of Gottingen in Germany, where he took his doctor's degree in chemistry. In 1897 he entered the employ of the Joseph Campbell Preserve Company in Camden, N. J., in which company his uncle, Arthur Dorrance, had a substantial interest. He remained with that firm and its corporate successor, the Campbell Soup Company, until his death.

At the start of his business career he established his residence at a boarding house in Camden, living there until 1905, when he moved to the Robeson Apartments in the same city. In 1906 he married Miss Ethel Mallinckrodt of Baltimore, Maryland, who survives him as his widow. Dorrance and his wife made their home at the Robeson Apartments until 1908, at which time they moved to Philadelphia and remained in that city until 1911. In 1909 Dorrance purchased a country place known as Pomona Farms in Cinnaminson township, Burlington county, N. J. He later conveyed the title to this property to the Campbell Preserve Company, and thereafter leased the premises from that company. Upon completion of alterations to the leased property, Dorrance and his family entered into possession on May 7, 1911, and the commonwealth

163 A. 305

concedes that from this date until November 14, 1925, decedent's domicile was in New Jersey.

During the years which passed from the time of his first association with the Campbell Company, Dorrance rose rapidly in the management and control of the business. The company itself grew into one of the largest canning and preserving enterprises in this country. At the time of Dorrance's death in September 1930, it employed between four and five thousand persons, and annually consumed in the business enormous quantities of vegetables and other farm products. Dorrance became the head of the company, and from 1915 until his death was the owner of all its capital stock. In 1922 the company was reorganized as the Campbell Soup Company, a New Jersey corporation with offices in Camden. At the time of his death, Dorrance had amassed an immense fortune, which both parties agree is to be estimated at a figure exceeding $115,000,000.

In 1925 he purchased a large and attractive estate known as "Woodcrest" located in Radnor, Delaware county, Fa., in the suburbs of Philadelphia. The property was taken in the joint names of Doctor and Mrs. Dorrance, and, including subsequent additions of surrounding acreage and furnishing of the mansion, the cost was approximately a million dollars. Speaking of the purchase of the Radnor estate, Mrs. Dorrance, the widow, testified as follows:

"It was purchased so that our children would be more in contact with children and where they could go to school more easily with children with their prospects in life, and where we could do some entertaining for my oldest daughter who was then coming of age and who mingled with the world; and where I * * * would be nearer my associates." In 1925 the children comprised four daughters aged respectively, 18, 16, 14, and 10, and one son in his sixth year.

The house at Radnor was first occupied by the Dorrance family on November 14, 1925, at which time their entire personal effects were removed from Cinnaminson to Radnor. The commonwealth contends that from this date until his death, almost five years later, Dorrance was domiciled in Pennsylvania. Despite an attempt on the part of the executors to demonstrate that the former home in New Jersey was maintained as the principal home and establishment of decedent, and that there was a mere occasional occupancy of the Radnor place, it is our opinion the evidence clearly indicates that from 1925 until the autumn of 1930, the Radnor estate was the real and only home of the Dorrances, and, except for occasional visits to Cinnaminson and sojourns in Bar Harbor, Palm Beach, and other resorts, as well as trips to Europe, "Woodcrest" was occupied continuously by decedent and his family until his death, and at present is the family home. The place at Cinnaminson was retained in substantially the same condition as before the acquisition of "Woodcrest," but with the number of servants reduced from ten to two. It was occupied after 1926 by the mother and sister of Dorrance, who remained there until their deaths in 1928 and 1929, respectively. During their occupancy, one or two rooms in the house were reserved for Dorrance and his wife and available for their temporary use at any time. The evidence is not convincing that Dorrance used the Cinnaminson residence for any extended period after removal of his family to Radnor. Undoubtedly he made occasional visits to the place, but these can be accounted for on several grounds: His mother and sister were both living there and eventually developed fatal illnesses; the Cinnaminson place was in the midst of the experimental farms of the soup company; above all, in addition to a claimed sentimental attachment to Cinnaminson, he was anxious to give color to his asserted intention to retain New Jersey as the place of his domicile.

Much of the vast amount of testimony and exhibits introduced by both appellants and appellees is immaterial to the issue, but there are a number of facts which, in our opinion, establish beyond question that continuously since 1925 the true home of Dorrance and his family was in Pennsylvania, and that the New Jersey residence was retained by him merely to lend weight to the fiction that he was domiciled there. Before 1925 Dorrance employed ten servants at Cinnaminson. After 1925 there were never more than four, and after the death of Dorrance's mother in 1929 only two. At "Woodcrest" sixteen servants were employed in the house and ten to twelve others worked on the grounds. There was a corresponding difference in the running expenses of the two properties. In 1924 the living expenses at Cinnaminson were slightly over $29,000. After 1925 the expenditures were considerably diminished, and in 1929 amounted to approximately $6,500. On the other hand, the maintenance of the Radnor estate exceeded $90,000 in 1929, and the year before amounted to approximately $95,000.

Although the comparative size of two residences is not conclusive of the fact of domicile, it is evidence of the intention to make one place the principal home. The expenditure of a very large sum of money for a residence which is not adapted to nor designed for mere seasonal occupancy is strong indication of an intention to make it the principal residence and main establishment of the family, particularly where the new residence is more elaborate and pretentious than any former abode. A few figures will readily show the marked difference between the Dorrance estates. The Cinnaminson property consisted of approximately seven acres located in a country district and surrounded by truck farms. The homestead was more than

163 A. 306

fifty years old, and had been remodeled in 1911. Although situated among fine old trees and surrounded by an extensive lawn, the house "was an ordinary brick...

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82 practice notes
  • State of Texas v. State of Florida, No. 11
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 13, 1939
    ...v. Pennsylvania, 287 U.S. 580, 53 S.Ct. 313, 77 L.Ed. 508; Hill v. Martin, 296 U.S. 393, 56 S.Ct. 278, 80 L.Ed. 293; Dorrance's Estate, 309 Pa. 151, 163 A. 303, certiorari denied, Dorrance v. Pennsylvania, 287 U.S. 660, 53 S.Ct. 222, 77 L.Ed. 570; Id., 288 U.S. 617, 53 S.Ct. 507, 77 L.Ed. 9......
  • Stambaugh v. Stambaugh
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • October 16, 1974
    ...fact. The issue of domicile, Page 486 however, is a mixed questio of law and fact reviewable by an appellate court. In Dorrance's Estate, 309 Pa. 151, 156, 163 [458 Pa. 152] A. 303, 304 (1932), this Court held: 'The determination of . . . domicile . . . is a conclusion of law, based upon fa......
  • State Tax Commission of Utah v. Aldrich, No. 814
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 27, 1942
    ...660, 53 S.Ct. 222, 77 L.Ed. 570, and Id., 288 U.S. 617, 53 S.Ct. 507, 77 L.Ed. 990, certiorari denied to review In re Dorrance's Estate, 309 Pa. 151, 163 A. 303; Hill v. Martin, 296 U.S. 393, 56 S.Ct. 278, 80 L.Ed. 293; Dorrance v. Martin, 298 U.S. 678, 56 S.Ct. 949, 80 L.Ed. 1399, certiora......
  • Stottlemyer v. Stottlemyer
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • December 5, 1974
    ...consider the expressions of a person, See Publicker Estate, Supra, but expressions of intent are not conclusive, See Dorrance's Estate, 309 Pa. 151, 163 A. 303 (1932). A court will also look to acts and circumstances, 19 but the evidence is often ambiguous and reasonable minds may well diff......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
82 cases
  • State of Texas v. State of Florida, No. 11
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 13, 1939
    ...v. Pennsylvania, 287 U.S. 580, 53 S.Ct. 313, 77 L.Ed. 508; Hill v. Martin, 296 U.S. 393, 56 S.Ct. 278, 80 L.Ed. 293; Dorrance's Estate, 309 Pa. 151, 163 A. 303, certiorari denied, Dorrance v. Pennsylvania, 287 U.S. 660, 53 S.Ct. 222, 77 L.Ed. 570; Id., 288 U.S. 617, 53 S.Ct. 507, 77 L.Ed. 9......
  • Stambaugh v. Stambaugh
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • October 16, 1974
    ...fact. The issue of domicile, Page 486 however, is a mixed questio of law and fact reviewable by an appellate court. In Dorrance's Estate, 309 Pa. 151, 156, 163 [458 Pa. 152] A. 303, 304 (1932), this Court held: 'The determination of . . . domicile . . . is a conclusion of law, based upon fa......
  • State Tax Commission of Utah v. Aldrich, No. 814
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 27, 1942
    ...660, 53 S.Ct. 222, 77 L.Ed. 570, and Id., 288 U.S. 617, 53 S.Ct. 507, 77 L.Ed. 990, certiorari denied to review In re Dorrance's Estate, 309 Pa. 151, 163 A. 303; Hill v. Martin, 296 U.S. 393, 56 S.Ct. 278, 80 L.Ed. 293; Dorrance v. Martin, 298 U.S. 678, 56 S.Ct. 949, 80 L.Ed. 1399, certiora......
  • Stottlemyer v. Stottlemyer
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • December 5, 1974
    ...consider the expressions of a person, See Publicker Estate, Supra, but expressions of intent are not conclusive, See Dorrance's Estate, 309 Pa. 151, 163 A. 303 (1932). A court will also look to acts and circumstances, 19 but the evidence is often ambiguous and reasonable minds may well diff......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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