Lapas attēli

Opinion of the Court.

"which deceased was a resident," or in which "he may have died," or in which any part of his estate may be, "he having died out of the Territory." By § 1388, administration of the estate of. "a person dying intestate" is to be granted to relatives, next of kin, or creditors, in a certain order, with a proviso in case the person so entitled or interested neglect "for more than forty days after the death of the intestate" to apply for administration. By § 1389, an application for administration must "set forth the facts essential to giving the court jurisdiction of the case," and state "the names and places of residence of the heirs of the deceased, and that the deceased died without a will;" and by § 1391, notice of such application is to be given by posting in three public places in the county where the court is held a notice "containing the name of the decedent," the name of the applicant, and the time of hearing. And by §§ 1493 and 1494, a petition by an executor or administrator for the sale of real estate for the payment of debts must set forth "the amount of the personal estate that has come to his hands, and how much, if any, remains undisposed of, a list and the amounts of the debts outstanding against the deceased, as far as the same can be ascertained, a description of all the real estate of which the testator or intestate died seized, the condition and value of the respective lots and portions, the names and ages of the devisees, if any, and of the heirs of the deceased;" and must show that it is necessary to sell real estate "to pay the allowance to the family, the debts outstanding against the deceased, and the expenses of administration."

Under such a statute, according to the overwhelming weight of authority, as shown by the cases cited in the earlier part of this opinion, the jurisdiction of the court to which is committed the control and management of the estates of deceased persons, by whatever name it is called, ecclesiastical court, probate court, orphans' court, or court of the ordinary or the surrogate, does not exist or take effect before death. All proceedings of such courts in the probate of wills and the granting of administrations depend upon the fact that a person is dead, and are null and void if he is alive. Their jurisdiction

Opinion of the Court.

in this respect being limited to the estates of deceased persons, they have no jurisdiction whatever to administer and dispose of the estates of living persons of full age and sound mind, or to determine that a living man is dead and thereupon undertake to dispose of his estate.

A court of probate must, indeed, inquire into and be satisfied of the fact of the death of the person whose will is sought to be proved or whose estate is sought to be administered, because, without that fact, the court has no jurisdiction over his estate; and not because its decision upon the question whether he is living or dead can in anywise bind or estop him, or deprive him, while alive, of the title or control of his property.

As the jurisdiction to issue letters of administration upon his estate rests upon the fact of his death, so the notice given before issuing such letters, assumes that fact, and is addressed, not to him, but to those who after his death may be interested in his estate, as next of kin, legatees, creditors or otherwise. Notice to them cannot be notice to him, because all their interests are adverse to his. concerned, is res inter alios acta.

The whole thing, so far as he is

Next of kin or legatees have no rights in the estate of a living person. His creditors indeed, may, upon proper proceedings, and due notice to him, in a court of law or of equity, have specific portions of his property applied in satisfaction of their debts. But neither creditors nor purchasers can acquire any rights in his property through the action of a court of probate, or of an administrator appointed by that court, dealing, without any notice to him, with his whole estate as if he were dead.

The appointment by the probate court of an administrator of the estate of a living person, without notice to him, being without jurisdiction, and wholly void as against him, all acts of the administrator, whether approved by that court or not, are equally void; the receipt of money by the administrator is no discharge of a debt; and a conveyance of property by the administrator passes no title.

The fact that a person has been absent and not heard from



Opinion of the Court.

for seven years may create such a presumption of his death if not overcome by other proof, is such prima facie evidence of his death, that the probate court may assume him to be dead and appoint an administrator of his estate, and that such administrator may sue upon a debt due to him. But proof, under proper pleadings, even in a collateral suit, that he was alive at the time of the appointment of the administrator, controls and overthrows the prima facie evidence of his death, and establishes that the court had no jurisdiction, and the administrator no authority; and he is not bound, either by the order appointing the administrator, or by a judgment in any suit brought by the administrator against a third person, because he was not a party to and had no notice of either.

[ocr errors]

In a case decided in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York in 1880, substantially like Roderigas v. East River Savings Institution, as reported in 63 N. Y. 460, above cited, Judge Choate, in a learned and able opinion, held that letters of administration upon the estate of a living man, issued by the surrogate after judicially determining that he was dead, were null and void as against him; that payment of a debt to an administrator so appointed was no defence to an action by him against the debtor; and that hold such administration to be valid against him would deprive him of his property without due process of law, within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. This court concurs in the proposition, there announced, "that it is not competent for a State, by a law declaring a judicial determination that a man is dead, made in his absence, and without any notice to or process issued against him, conclusive for the purpose of divesting him of his property and vesting it in an administrator, for the benefit of his creditors and next of kin, either absolutely or in favor of those only who innocently deal with such administrator. The immediate and necessary effect of such a law is to deprive him of his property without any process of law whatever, as against him, although it is done by process of law against other people, his next of kin, to whom notice is given. Such a statutory declaration of estoppel


by a judgment to which he is neither party nor privy, which has the immediate effect of divesting him of his property, is a direct violation of this constitutional guaranty." Lavin v. Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank, 18 Blatchford, 1, 24.

The defendants did not rely upon any statute of limitations, nor upon any statute allowing them for improvements made in good faith; but their sole reliance was upon a deed from an administrator, acting under the orders of a court which had no jurisdiction to appoint him, or to confer any authority upon him, as against the plaintiff.

Judgment reversed, and case remanded to the Supreme Court of the State of Washington for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.



No. 21. Argued April 6, 9, 1894. - Decided May 26, 1894.

In the bill of lading of a quantity of cases and bales of goods delivered to the National Steamship Company at Liverpool, and addressed and consigned to C. in New York, it was provided as follows: "Shipped in good order and well conditioned . . . in and upon the steamship called the Egypt bound for New York . . . forty-three cases merchandise . . . being marked and numbered as in the margin, and to be delivered subject to the following exceptions and conditions: . . . The National Steamship Company or its agents or any of its servants are not to be liable for any damage to any goods which is capable of being covered by insurance nor for any claims for loss

where the loss occurs while the goods are not actually in the possession of the company. . . . The goods to be taken alongside by the consignee immediately the vessel is ready to discharge, or otherwise they will be landed by the master and deposited at the expense of the consignee, and at his risk of fire, loss, or injury in the warehouse provided for that purpose, or in the public store, as the collector of the port of New York shall direct. . . . The United States Treasury having given permission for goods to remain forty-eight hours on wharf

Statement of the Case.

at New York, any goods so left by consignee will be at his or their risk of fire, loss, or injury." The Egypt arrived January 31, 1883, was entered at the custom-house at 1.45 P.M. of that day, and, there being no room for her at the pier of the National Company, where the vessels of that company were usually unladen, was taken to the pier of the Inman Company. A collector's permit was given to unload the steamer and to allow the unpermitted cargo to remain on the wharf for forty-eight hours, upon an agreement by the steamship company, which was given, that the goods should be at the sole risk of that company, who would pay to the consignee or owner the value of such cargo respectively as might be stolen, burned, or otherwise lost. Notice of the time and place of the discharge was then posted upon the bulletin board of the customhouse, in accordance with custom, but no notice was sent to C., nor did he have any notice. The cases and bales consigned to him were on the same day landed on the Inman pier, but he had no knowledge of it, and had no opportunity to remove the goods on that day; and, if he had had such knowledge, there was not sufficient time for him to have entered, paid the duties, obtained the permits for their removal, and removed them. On the night of that day the goods were destroyed by fire, without any imputed negligence to the National Steamship Company. Held, (1) That the stipulation in the bill of lading that respondent should not be liable for a fire happening after unloading the cargo was reasonable and valid;

(2) That the discharge of the cargo at the Inman pier was not in the eye of the law a deviation such as to render the carrier an insurer of the goods so unladen;

(3) That if any notice of such unloading was required at all, the bulletin posted in the custom-house was sufficient under the practice and usages of the port of New York;

(4) That libellants, having taken no steps upon the faith of the cargo being unladen at respondent's pier, were not prejudiced by the change;

(5) That the agreement of the respondent with the collector of customs to pay the consignee the value of the goods was not one of which the libellants could avail themselves as adding to the obligations of their contract with respondent.

THIS was a libel in admiralty by the firm of Arnold, Constable & Co. against the National Steamship Company, owner of the British steamship Egypt, to recover the value of thirtysix cases of merchandise carried by this steamer from Liverpool to New York, delivered on the pier of the Inman Steamship Company on January 31, 1883, and upon the same night destroyed by fire through the alleged negligence of the respondent. The answer admitted most of the material

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »