In re Dorrance's Estate, No. 4148.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
Writing for the CourtBUCHANAN, Vice Ordinary
PartiesIn re DORRANCE'S ESTATE. DORRANCE et al. v. THAYER-MARTIN, Tax Com'r.
Decision Date07 February 1934
Docket NumberNo. 4148.
170 A. 601

In re DORRANCE'S ESTATE.
DORRANCE et al.
v.
THAYER-MARTIN, Tax Com'r.

No. 4148.

Prerogative Court of New Jersey.

Feb. 7, 1934.


170 A. 601
Syllabus by the Court.

1. When judicial proceedings in a sister state are set up in defense of a transfer inheritance tax assessment by the authorities of this state, the adjudication by the court of the sister state that decedent was domiciled in that state is not necessarily conclusive upon the courts of this state.

2. In such a case it is open to this court to examine into and determine the domicile of the decedent, and, if it be found that such domicile was not in the sister state, and the foreign court was therefore without jurisdiction to pronounce its decree, such decree is not binding upon this court, under the full faith and credit clause of the Federal Constitution.

3. Where a person domiciled at one place moves to a new abode, his domicile will not be changed if he intends not to abandon the old home but to return to it, even though the particular time of such intended return be not definitely fixed.

4. For the acquisition of a new domicile there must be not only the fact of actual residence in the new abode, but also the intent that it shall be the permanent home, with no present intent not to remain there permanently or indefinitely.

5. Evidence examined, and held, that decedent, in moving from his domiciliary home in New Jersey to a new abode in Pennsylvania, intended not to abandon the old home; intended his stay in Pennsylvania to be only temporary, although its duration was not definitely fixed; intended to return to the old home after such temporary stay.

6. Further held, that in such case his domicile remained in New Jersey, and that transfer inheritance tax upon his intangible personal estate was validly assessed by the tax commissioner of this state, notwithstanding that the Pennsylvania authorities had assumed to assess a similar tax and that such tax had been upheld as valid by the judgment of the highest court of Pennsylvania; that the Pennsylvania tax was invalid, and the decree of the Pennsylvania court erroneous and not binding upon the courts of this state, because of lack of jurisdiction.

Proceeding in the matter of the estate of John T. Dorrance, deceased, wherein Ethel M. Dorrance and others, executors, made a report of assets of the estate to J. H. Thayer-Martin, State Tax Commissioner. From the assessment of transfer inheritance tax, the executors appeal.

Affirmed.

See, also, 113 N. J. Eq. 266, 166 A. 177.

William D. Lippincott, of Camden, John Milton, of Jersey City, and Nathan Miller and Harold Otis, both of New York City, for appellants.

William A. Stevens, Atty. Gen., and Duane E. Minard and William A. Moore, Asst. Attya Gen., for respondent.

BUCHANAN, Vice Ordinary.

John T. Dorrance died at Cinnaminson, N. J., September 21, 1930. His executors petitioned for and obtained decree for probate of his will as a resident of Cinnaminson, in Burlington county, N. J.; and subsequently made report of the assets of the estate, as of a resident decedent, to the state tax commissioner. The latter made an assessment of transfer inheritance tax amounting to nearly $17,000,000 against the estate October 17, 1931. He subsequently, on December 12, 1931, opened the assessment and gave the executors permission to submit further evidence on the question of decedent's domicile;

170 A. 602

this having been submitted, the commissioner made a reassessment on October 10, 1932, in the same amounts as before. From this assessment the executors appeal to this court.

The main contention of appellants (several other subordinate grounds of appeal, of minor importance, are specified in the petition) is that the assessment is erroneous, illegal, and invalid because the commissioner found that decedent was domiciled in New Jersey at the time of his death, and included the value of decedent's intangible personal property in computing the tax; whereas (they contend) decedent was not domiciled in New Jersey, and hence no tax can legally be assessed in New Jersey in respect of the testamentary transfer of such intangible personalty.

Concededly the conclusion is true, if the premise be true. Tax on the testamentary (or intestate) transfer of a decedent's intangible personalty may be legally assessed and levied only by the state in which the decedent was domiciled at the time of his death; this is conclusively settled by the decisions of the United States Supreme Court in First National Bank of Boston v. State of Maine, 284 U. S. 312, 52 S. Ct. 174, 76 L. Ed. 313, 77 A. L. R. 1401, and Farmers' Loan & Trust Co. v. Minnesota, 280 U. S. 204, 50 S; Ct. 98, 74 L. Ed. 371, 65 A. L. R. 1000; and this determination is controlling upon the courts of this state in this litigation.

The essential issue is therefore whether or not Dr. Dorrance, at the time of his death, was domiciled in New Jersey. If he was, then the tax in question is correct (at least substantially); if he was not, then no tax can be levied by New Jersey, except as to the few thousand dollars of tangible personal property located here, for almost the whole of the estate (of some $115,000,000) consisted of stocks, bonds, and other intangible personalty. There are, however, a few subordinate or preliminary issues.

For some years prior to his death, Dr. Dorrance had occupied two residence houses, one in New Jersey and the other in Pennsylvania. During the time the present proceedings were pending, similar tax proceedings were instituted against the estate in Pennsylvania, on the claim by that state that Dr. Dorrance was domiciled in Pennsylvania; this claim was sustained, and a tax assessed by the register of wills of Delaware county, Pa. On appeal to the orphans' court of that county, that court adjudged Dr. Dorrance as domiciled in New Jersey and set the tax aside; but later the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania reversed the decree of the orphans' court, and directed the assessment of a tax of some $17,000,000. 309 Pa. 151, 103 A. 303. The Supreme Court of the United States denied the application of the executors for review of that decree (287 U. S. 660, 53 S. Ct. 222, 77 L. Ed. 570), and the executors were compelled to pay that tax to the Pennsylvania authorities.

The appellants contend that the determination by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is controlling upon the authorities in New Jersey, upon the question of Dr. Dorranee's domicile. This is denied by respondent.

Respondent contends that the appellants are estopped or precluded, for several reasons, from claiming that Dr. Dorrance was not domiciled in New Jersey. It may well be that this contention is sound. Certainly at first impression there would seem to be considerable weight to the argument that the executors, after having claimed by their sworn petition to the Burlington county surrogate that Dr. Dorrance was domiciled (resident) in New Jersey, after the adjudication by the surrogate that he was so domiciled, and the consequent decree probating the will in Burlington county and issuing letters testamentary to these executors (on which letters depends their authority to act in these very proceedings and in the administration of the estate), after they have acted for some two years in administering the estate on the strength of that probate in Burlington county, so procured by them, and have obtained and received from the Burlington county orphans' court allowances of $1,500,000 for their services as such executors, after they have, by their original sworn petition to the tax commissioner in these proceedings, admitted and asserted that the decedent was domiciled in this state, and after the decedent himself (the very person whose property is concerned) has asserted in the strongest terms, in the very will which conferred authority on these executors to act as such, that he was domiciled in New Jersey—that the executors should not now be heard or permitted to claim that decedent was not domiciled in New Jersey.

In view of the publicity which has been accorded the litigation over this estate both in the courts of Pennsylvania and of New Jersey, and the public interest therein, this court has deemed it advisable to consider the main issue involved, to wit, the issue as to the actual domicile of the decedent.

As has already been said, the appellants contend that this court is precluded from considering that issue; that the decision of the Pennsylvania court is conclusive and controlling upon this court. With that contention this court is unable to concur.

That contention, more fully expressed, is that (1) the Pennsylvania decision or decree was a final decree in a proceeding in rem; that (2) the res in that proceeding was the assessment and levy of transfer tax in respect of the intangible personal property of the decedent; (3) that the right of Pennsylvania to assess and levy such tax in a decedent's estate was, and must necessarily be, predicated

170 A. 603

upon the fact that the decedent was domiciled in Pennsylvania; (4) that under the law of Pennsylvania the determination of the Pennsylvania court in a proceeding of this kind is final and conclusive against all the world; (5) that, by virtue of article 4, § 1, of the Constitution of the United States, and of the statute enacted to carry that provision into effect (the Act of Congress of May 26, 1790, c. 11; U. S. Rev. Stat. § 905 [28 USCA § 687]), that adjudication by the Pennssylvania court must be accorded the same effect by the New Jersey courts, and hence must, in this appeal, be regarded as final and conclusive against the state of New Jersey (notwithstanding New Jersey was not a...

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41 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. 660, 53 S.Ct. 222, 77 L.Ed. 570; Id., 288 U.S. 617, 53 S.Ct. 507, 77 L.Ed. 990; In re Dorrance, 115 N.J.Eq. 268, 170 A. 601; Dorrance v. Thayer-Martin, 116 N.J.L. 362, 184 A. 743, certiorari denied, 298 U.S. 678, 56 S.Ct. 949, 80 L.Ed. 1399. Cf. Matter of Trowbridg......
  • Stottlemyer v. Stottlemyer
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • December 5, 1974
    ...to Pennsylvania inheritance tax. The Prerogative Court of New Jersey, on the other hand, concluded in Dorrance's Estate, 115 N.J.Eq. 268, 170 A. 601 (1934), affirmed, 116 N.J.L. 362, 184 A. 743 (1935). cert. denied, 298 U.S. 678, 56 S.Ct. 949, 80 L.Ed. 1399 (1936), that Dr. Dorrance had bee......
  • Lyon v. Glaser
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • March 6, 1972
    ...re Fisher, Supra; Cromwell v. Neeld, 15 N.J.Super. 296, 300--301, 183 A.2d 337 (App.Div.1951); In re Dorrance, 115 N.J.Eq. 268, 274--275, 170 A. 601 (Prerog.Ct.1934), aff'd Per curiam sub nom. Dorrance v. Thayer-Martin, 13 N.J.Misc. 168, 176 A. 902 (Sup.Ct.1935), aff'd o.b. 116 N.J.L. 362, ......
  • Worcester County Trust Co. v. Long, No. 4292.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • April 27, 1936
    ...New Jersey courts, they have been unanimous in holding that Dorrance was domiciled in New Jersey. In re Dorrance's Estate, 115 N.J.Eq. 268, 170 A. 601; Id., 116 N.J.Eq. 204, 172 A. 503; Dorrance v. Martin, 176 A. 902, 13 N.J. Misc. 168. See, also, Hill v. Martin, 296 U.S. 393, 56 S.Ct. 278,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
41 cases
  • State of Texas v. State of Florida, No. 11
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 13, 1939
    ...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. 990; In re Dorrance, 115 N.J.Eq. 268, 170 A. 601; Dorrance v. Thayer-Martin, 116 N.J.L. 362, 184 A. 743, certiorari denied, 298 U.S. 678, 56 S.Ct. 949, 80 L.Ed. 1399. Cf. Matter of Trowbridg......
  • Stottlemyer v. Stottlemyer
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • December 5, 1974
    ...to Pennsylvania inheritance tax. The Prerogative Court of New Jersey, on the other hand, concluded in Dorrance's Estate, 115 N.J.Eq. 268, 170 A. 601 (1934), affirmed, 116 N.J.L. 362, 184 A. 743 (1935). cert. denied, 298 U.S. 678, 56 S.Ct. 949, 80 L.Ed. 1399 (1936), that Dr. Dorrance had bee......
  • Lyon v. Glaser
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • March 6, 1972
    ...re Fisher, Supra; Cromwell v. Neeld, 15 N.J.Super. 296, 300--301, 183 A.2d 337 (App.Div.1951); In re Dorrance, 115 N.J.Eq. 268, 274--275, 170 A. 601 (Prerog.Ct.1934), aff'd Per curiam sub nom. Dorrance v. Thayer-Martin, 13 N.J.Misc. 168, 176 A. 902 (Sup.Ct.1935), aff'd o.b. 116 N.J.L. 362, ......
  • Worcester County Trust Co. v. Long, No. 4292.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • April 27, 1936
    ...New Jersey courts, they have been unanimous in holding that Dorrance was domiciled in New Jersey. In re Dorrance's Estate, 115 N.J.Eq. 268, 170 A. 601; Id., 116 N.J.Eq. 204, 172 A. 503; Dorrance v. Martin, 176 A. 902, 13 N.J. Misc. 168. See, also, Hill v. Martin, 296 U.S. 393, 56 S.Ct. 278,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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