In re Fischer's Estate

118 N.J. Eq. 599, 180 A. 633 (1935)

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In re Fischer’s Estate

New Jersey Prerogative Court
118 N.J. Eq. 599, 180 A. 633 (1935)

Facts

Mae Platto Fischer died intestate in New Jersey. Mae was survived by her husband, Frederick G. Fischer, and a brother, George Platto. Frederick alleged that Mae was a resident of New Jersey when she died and sought and was granted letters of administration by a New Jersey court. No notice of the New Jersey proceeding was given to Mae’s surviving brother George. Under New Jersey law, if Mae was domiciled in New Jersey when she died, then Frederick would be her sole heir and have the sole right to letters of administration with no requirement to give notice to Mae’s surviving brother George. George filed an action in New York and alleged that Mae was domiciled in New York when she died. Process was served on Frederick. Under New York law, if Mae died domiciled in New York, then George would get a substantial share of her estate. In the interim, Frederick became mentally deranged, and the New Jersey court appointed Milton Mermelstein as a substituted administrator. Milton entered an appearance in the New York proceeding. Milton also filed a New York action and asked to be appointed as an ancillary administrator in New York because, according to him, Mae’s domicile at her death was New Jersey. Under New York law, ancillary letters can only be granted if the original letters were issued in the state of the decedent’s domicile at death. Because both New York actions involved the issue of Mae’s death domicile, the actions were consolidated and tried in New York. Frederick, George, and Milton appeared as parties and litigated the issue. The New York court determined that Mae was domiciled in New York when she died and issued original letters of administration to George. George then commenced this action and asked the court to revoke the letters issued to Milton and reissue them to George. George argued that the New Jersey court’s initial determination was based on the mistaken belief that Mae died domiciled in New Jersey and that George, because he was not a party to that earlier New Jersey action and had not been given notice of it, was not bound by it.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Buchanan, J.)

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