In re Peterson's Estate, 25358.

Decision Date13 May 1935
Docket Number25358.
CourtWashington Supreme Court

Department 1.

Appeal from Superior Court, King County; William G. Long, Judge.

In the matter of the estate of Frank G. Peterson, deceased. Proceeding by Emily C. Peterson, as executrix of the estate of Frank G. Peterson, deceased, for the elimination of amount of deposit in savings bank from inventory and appraisement opposed by William H. Pemberton, as State Supervisor of Inheritance Tax and Escheat Division. From a judgment for the executrix, the Supervisor appeals.


William H. Pemberton and John M. Boyle, Jr., both of Olympia, and Henry Russell, of Seattle, for appellant.

Tanner & Garvin, of Seattle, amicus curiae.

George B. Cole and John Wesley Dolby, both of Seattle, for respondent.

MAIN Justice.

This is an appeal from a judgment of the superior court eliminating the sum of $7,717.33 from the inventory and appraisement in the estate of Frank G. Peterson, deceased. Emily C. Peterson the widow of the deceased, was duly appointed executrix of his last will and testament April 20, 1932. Thereafter, she filed an inventory of the assets of the estate in which the item above mentioned was included. That item was a deposit in the Washington Mutual Savings Bank in the name of Frank G. Peterson and Emily C. Peterson, his wife. Mr. Peterson died April 12, 1932. The account was opened in the savings bank September 9, 1921. At the time it was opened, the parties making it, Peterson and wife, signed a contract which provided that: 'Withdrawals from this account may be made by either of us, during the lifetime of both, or by the survivor upon the death of one of us.'

Subsequent to the filing of the inventory and the making of the appraisement, the executrix filed a petition asking that the $7,717.33, the amount of deposit in the savings bank, the eliminated from the estate. Upon the hearing upon the petition, the supervisor of the inheritance tax and escheat division of this state appeared and resisted the elimination. The trial, upon which evidence was taken, resulted in a judgment, as already indicated, eliminating the item. From this judgment, the supervisor of the inheritance tax and escheat division appeals. No bill of exceptions or statement of facts has been brought to this court.

Whether the amount of deposit in the savings bank was properly eliminated from the estate depends upon whether an account made under the conditions that this one was, passes any property right or interest to the survivor after the decease of one of the parties. Subdivision 2 of section 19 of chapter 175, p. 567, Laws 1915 (now Rem. Rev. Stat. § 3348, subd. 3) provides that, after any deposit shall be made by any person in the names of such depositor and another person and in form to be paid to either or the survivor of them, 'such deposit and any additions thereto made by either of such persons after the making thereof, shall become the property of such persons as joint tenants. * * *' An earlier statute, enacted in 1886 (Laws 1886, p. 165,§ 1), Rem. Rev. Stat. § 1344, provided that, if partition be not made between joint tenants, the parts of those who die first shall not accrue to the survivors, but descend, or pass by devise, 'in the same view as if such deceased joint tenant had been tanants in common. * * *' It will thus be seen that the act of 1915, which was subsequently amended in 1929 (chapter 123, Laws 1929 [page 280]), but not with reference to the provisions which makes depositors in savings banks joint tenants, is in conflict with the earlier statute.

It is first contended that Rem. Rev. Stat. § 3348, which is one of the sections of the mutual savings banks law, is unconstitutional, because it amends Rem. Rev. Stat. § 1344, without setting forth the latter section in full. Section 37 of article 2 of the Constitution provides that no act shall be revised or amended 'by mere reference to its title, but the act revised or the section amended shall be set forth at full length.' The section of the savings bank law makes no reference to the previous statute, and is one of the sections of a general act which is complete in itself. The later act being complete in itself and making no reference to the prior act, and the two being in conflict, such later act will prevail. To such a situation, the constitutional provision requiring the amended section to be set out at full length does not apply. Spokane Grain & Fuel Co. v. Lyttaker, 59 Wash. 76, 109 P. 316; In re Hulet, 159 Wash. 98, 292 P. 430.

The appellant cites in support of his position the cases of Copland v. Pirie, 26 Wash. 481, 67 P. 227, 90 Am. St. Rep. 769, and State ex rel. Arnold v. Mitchell, 55 Wash. 513, 104 P. 791. Those cases, however, are no longer the law of this state, as was pointed out in Holzman v. Spokane, 91 Wash. 418, 157 P. 1086, 1089, wherein it was said with reference to them that' 'It may be conceded that counsel's contention finds some support in these decisions, but we think they are no longer controlling upon this question in the light of the more recent decisions of this court.'

Rem. Rev. Stat. § 3348, does not offend against the constitutional provision above mentioned.

It is next contended that section 3348 is unconstitutional because it embraces more than one subject which is not expressed in the title. Section 19 of article 2 of the Constitution provides that no bill shall embrace more than one subject, and 'that shall be expressed in the title.' It is said in this connection that the title of the act of 1915 does not make any reference to the subject of joint tenances. The title of that act is: 'An Act authorizing the incorporation of mutual savings banks, defining their powers and duties, and prescribing penalties for violations hereof.'

It thus appears that the title is general and comprehensive. No elaborate statement of the subject of an act is necessary to meet the requirements of the constitutional provision. A few well-chosen words, suggestive of the general subject stated, is all that is necessary. State ex rel. Seattle Electric Co. v. Superior Court, 28 Wash. 317, 68 P. 957, 92 Am. St. Rep. 831. Such a title to the act as this one should be liberally construed, and in deference to legislative discretion on the subject, acts shall not be construed as void, as violating the Constitution, unless they are so beyond any reasonable doubt. State ex rel. Reitmeier v. Oakley, 129 Wash. 553, 225 P. 425; King County v. Stringer, 130 Wash. 287, 227 P. 17.

A title to an act may be as broad as the Legislature sees fit to make it, and thereunder any specific legislation as to any subject relating to the general character thus broadly embraced in the title will be sustained. When, however, the Legislature sees fit to adopt a restricted title, and thereunder attempts to embrace provisions not fairly within such restricted title, such provisions cannot be given force, because it would have been convenient for the Legislature to have adopted a more generic title and thereunder properly included all the provisions of the act. Percival v. Cowychee & Wide Hollow Irr. Dist., 15 Wast. 480, 46 P. 1035.

In National Association of Creditors v. Brown, 147 Wash. 1, 264 P. 1005, the act under consideration had a restricted title, and it was held not sufficiently broad to include one of the provisions of the act. In the case of National Association of Creditors v. Pendleton, 158 Wash. 137, 290 P. 987, the title of the act under consideration was general, and it was held sufficient. These two cases well illustrate the difference between a restricted and a general title.

The title of the act in question, being general and comprehensive, was sufficiently broad to include the provision with reference to joint tenancy.

It is next contended that Rem. Rev. Stat. § 3348, is unconstitutional because it grants special and exclusive privileges, amounting to a monopoly, to mutual savings banks, and by reason thereof constitutes class legislation. Section 12 of article 1 of the Constitution provides that no law shall be passed granting to any citizen, class of citizens, or corporations, other than municipal, privileges or immunities which upon the same terms shall not belong to all citizens or corporations. Section 22 of article 12 provides that monopolies and trusts shall never be allowed in this state. With reference to the matter of monopoly, we are quite unable to see how a provision for joint tenancies in bank accounts in mutual savings banks has any tendency to create a monopoly. As to class legislation, the rule is that a legislative act is not violative of the constitutional provision mentioned so long as the classification involved is reasonable and has a fair basis. A discrimination is valid, if not arbitrary, in the legislative sense, and a classification may rest upon narrow distinctions. State v. Cannon, 125 Wash. 515, 217 P. 18; Northern Cedar Co. v. French, 131 Wash. 394, 230 P. 837; Lloyd Garretson Co. v. Robinson, 178 Wash. 601, 35 P.2d 504; German Alliance...

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