Bristol v. Washington County
177 U.S. 133 (1900)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Bristol v. Washington County, 177 U.S. 133 (1900)

Bristol v. Washington County

No. 109

Argued January 22, 1900

Decided April 9, 1900

177 U.S. 133

Syllabus

The personal property of a citizen of and resident in one state invested in bonds and mortgages in another state is subject to taxation in the latter state, and the amount of the tax is a claim against the property of the person taxed which is a debt that may, in case of death of the person taxed, be proved against his estate in the state where the mortgages and loans are contracted subject to the statutes of limitations of the state.

This is an appeal from a judgment of the Circuit Court for the District of Minnesota, allowing a claim in favor of Washington County, Minnesota, against the estate of Sophia M. Bristol, deceased.

Sophia M. Bristol died testate, naming James Bristol as her executor, and her will was duly admitted to probate in Wyoming County, State of New York, where said James and Sophia M. resided. Thereafter Mr. Bristol applied to the Probate Court of the County of Ramsay, Minnesota, for the admission of the will to probate there and the issue of letters testamentary to him. This was done, and subsequently the County of Washington exhibited its claim against said estate, whereupon Bristol filed his petition in the Probate Court for the removal of the action instituted by the filing of the claim into the circuit court of the United States, and it was removed accordingly. A repleader was awarded by stipulation, and a formal complaint and answer filed. The matter was heard by the circuit court, a jury being waived according to law, and the court made the following findings:

"I. That Cyrus Jefferson was the father of said Sophia M. Bristol, deceased, and died in November, 1883. For fourteen years just prior to his death, he was a citizen and resident of the New York, and during said time loaned and invested

Page 177 U. S. 134

large sums of money to various persons residing in Minnesota, upon their notes, payable to his order at said Stillwater, secured by mortgages on real estate in said Washington and adjoining counties in the State of Minnesota; all said loans and investments were made and the notes and mortgages taken by and through William M. McCluer, the agent of said Cyrus Jefferson, who resided at the City of Stillwater, in said Washington County, during all the time hereinafter mentioned, and who, with full authority from said Cyrus Jefferson, made all such loans and took and retained all notes and securities and collected and reloaned both the principal and interest of said loans at said City of Stillwater, in Washington County, Minnesota, and kept the same permanently invested in that way, as nearly as practicable, save as to such moneys as said Jefferson drew from time to time to pay his debts and living expenses."

"II. Prior to May 1, 1883, said William M. McCluer at said Stillwater, by the direction of said Jefferson, but otherwise with the same power and under the same authority and in the same manner, loaned of said moneys of said Cyrus Jefferson to persons in Washington County sums aggregating eighteen thousand dollars ($18,000), taking notes and mortgages therefor in the name of and payable to said Sophia M. Bristol at said Stillwater, and retained the same as her agent, and handled and collected and reinvested the same in the same manner as he had those of Cyrus Jefferson."

"III. After the death of said Cyrus Jefferson and on December 18, 1883, all the other notes and mortgages held by said McCluer as agent for said Cyrus Jefferson were transferred, assigned, and passed to said Sophia M. Bristol as her share of the estate of her said father. She thereupon employed said William M. McCluer and Charles M. McCluer, both of whom then at all times herein mentioned resided at said Stillwater, as her agents at said City of Stillwater in and about said loaning business. She gave to them all the authority before that time exercised by said William M. McCluer for her father, Cyrus Jefferson, as aforesaid, and also gave to them a written power of attorney empowering them or either of them

Page 177 U. S. 135

to satisfy and discharge or to sell and assign any and all mortgages then or thereafter in her name in the States of Minnesota or Wisconsin; all of said notes and mortgages of said Sophia M. Bristol, including those received by her as her share of her father's estate, as well as those taken in her name by said William M. McCluer prior to the death of her father, as aforesaid, were still left by her in the hands of her agents in Stillwater, Minnesota, and said agents continued as before to make collections of both principal and interest due on said notes and mortgages, to satisfy and discharge mortgages, and to make new loans and investments upon like securities with the moneys so collected by them for said Sophia M. Bristol, and kept all of her moneys received or collected by them prior to transmittal or reinvestment of the same, and while in their hands, deposited in bank in said Stillwater as their money, and having all notes and mortgages received by them for such loans made payable at their own office in said City of Stillwater, said mortgages being upon lands in Washington and adjoining counties in Minnesota."

"IV. In March, 1885, all of such notes then in the bands of said agents were delivered to said Sophia M. Bristol, and thereafter all new notes as taken by said agents in.said business were sent to Sophia M. Bristol and kept by her at her home in New York, but were payable as before at the office of said agents in Stillwater, Minnesota; all mortgages securing such notes were retained by said agents, and said notes were returned to said agents at Stillwater by said Sophia M. Bristol from time to time whenever required by them for the purpose of renewal, payment, collection, or foreclosure of securities; that the said William M. McCluer and Charles M. McCluer continued as agents for said Sophia M. Bristol, collecting money becoming due upon said notes and making loans in her name, sometimes under the direction of James Bristol, her husband, but generally upon their own judgment; that they remitted money to Sophia M. Bristol when she called for the same, and what was not received by her was invested in new loans, as aforesaid."

"That said Sophia M. Bristol did receive from the proceeds

Page 177 U. S. 136

of said collections at various times large sums of money through said agents, and all moneys collected were always subject to be sent to her or paid out in any way she should order."

"V. In the month of August, 1890, said William M. McCluer died, and thereafter said Charles M. McCluer continued to act as sole agent for said Sophia M. Bristol at said City of Stillwater, Minnesota, with the same power as before exercised by him and said William M. McCluer, except that in November, 1890, Sophia M. Bristol revoked said power of attorney which authorized said agent to satisfy mortgages of record, and thereafter executed satisfactions of mortgages herself."

"VI. Said loaning business was so carried on by said Sophia M. Bristol by and through her said agents at the City of Stillwater, Minnesota, in the manner aforesaid until her death, in the month of August, 1894."

"VII. Said Sophia M. Bristol had no taxable property in said Washington County during any of the years hereinbefore or hereinafter mentioned other than the loans and indebtedness mentioned, which were secured by mortgages upon lands in Minnesota, and which were under the charge and management of her said agents, who, during all said years and during all the time within which the taxes hereinafter mentioned were assessed and levied, resided and had their office and transacted said loaning business at the said City of Stillwater, in said county and state."

"VIII. That the moneys originally sent by said Jefferson to said William M. McCluer and invested and reinvested by said McCluer, and afterwards by said Sophia M. Bristol kept and retained in the hands of said William M. McCluer and Charles M. McCluer as her agents, were so sent, retained and kept in the hands of said agents in the City of Stillwater, Washington County, Minnesota, in and during each of the years when the taxes hereinafter mentioned were assessed and levied against said Sophia M. Bristol, as hereinafter specifically set forth, as and for a permanent investment and business under the full control of said agents, and said property and said loans acquired and had a situs in said City of Stillwater, Washington County, Minnesota, for the purpose of taxation. "

Page 177 U. S. 137

"IX. That the claimant herein, Washington County, is and for more than thirty years last past has been a municipal corporation, to-wit, an organized county created and existing under and pursuant to the laws of the Minnesota."

"X. That in and during each of the years from 1883 to 1894, inclusive, certain personal property taxes were duly assessed and levied against said Sophia M. Bristol by the proper taxing officers of said City of Stillwater and said Washington County on the personal property of said Sophia M. Bristol, deceased, consisting of the 'credits other than that of bank, banker, broker or stock jobber,' and that said assessments were each in fact based upon credits due said Sophia M. Bristol on promissory notes of various persons residing in Washington County and other counties in Minnesota, payable to her order, secured by mortgages on real estate situate in Washington County and other counties in the Minnesota."

"Said notes were all made payable at the office of William M. McCluer or Charles M. McCluer at the City of Stillwater. The assessed valuation of said personal property upon which said taxes were so assessed and levied for each of said years, the rate of the tax assessed upon property in the said City of Stillwater, in said county, that being the district where said property was assessed, in the number of mills levied on each dollar of property at the assessed valuation for each of said years, and the amount of said taxes so assessed and levied against said Sophia M. Bristol, deceased, for each of said years, are as set forth in the following schedule thereof, to-wit: [Here followed schedule as described. The valuations ran from $17,900 in 1883 to $184,900 in 1884; $196,672 in 1888; $181,292 in 1889, and $179,900 in 1890, 1, 2, 3 and 4]."

"That the said Sophia M. Bristol failed and neglected to pay said taxes on the first day of March in each of the years following that in which said taxes were respectively levied, as hereinbefore set forth, or at any time thereafter, and that, by reason of such failure said Sophia M. Bristol became and was and is liable to pay a penalty amounting to five percent on the amount of said taxes for the years 1883 to 1894, and ten percent on the amount of said taxes for each year thereafter, and that the

Page 177 U. S. 138

amount of said penalty for each of said years is as follows that is to say: [Here, the penalties claimed for each year were set forth.]"

"XI. Said Sophia M. Bristol never resided in Washington County nor in the Minnesota at any time, nor was she within the Minnesota from March 1, 1883, until her death, in August, 1894, except temporarily, and that the whole period of time she spent in the Minnesota from March 1, 1883, until her death did not exceed one year."

"XII. On or about the nineteenth day of October, 1894, the will of said Sophia M. Bristol was duly admitted to probate in and by the Probate Court of Ramsay County, in the Minnesota, and such proceedings were had in the matter of said estate that James Bristol, the executor named in said will, was duly appointed by said court as the executor of said last will and testament and of said estate, and the said James Bristol thereupon duly qualified as such executor and entered upon the discharge of his duties as such, and thereafter and on the eighteenth day of April, 1895, and within the time required by the order duly made by said probate court for filing claims against the estate of said Sophia M. Bristol, deceased, said claimant, Washington County, duly made and filed its verified claim in due form for all of the said taxes and the said penalties, together with interest upon the amount of said taxes and penalties for each year from and after the first day of March, in the year after the year in which said taxes were levied, as aforesaid."

"XIII. That the said Sophia M. Bristol was and for more than fifteen years next prior to her death bas been a resident and citizen of the New York, and said James Bristol, the executor above named, is now and for more than fifteen years last past always has been a resident and citizen of the New York."

"XIV. The court further finds that all of the taxes hereinbefore mentioned were fairly and equally assessed on a fair valuation of the personal property of said Sophia M. Bristol, deceased, for each of the years hereinbefore mentioned, and that no part of said taxes has ever been paid."

As conclusions of law, the court found that Washington County

Page 177 U. S. 139

was entitled to judgment for the amount of the taxes and penalties, together with costs and disbursements, and that "said claim of said amount is a just and valid claim against the estate of Sophia M. Bristol, deceased," and entered judgment as follows:

"It is therefore considered, ordered and adjudged -- That the County of Washington, the claimant in this case, do have and recover of and from the estate of Sophia M. Bristol, deceased, the sum of sixty-four thousand six hundred eighty-four dollars and seventy-eight cents ($64,684.78), so found to be due by the court, and that said sum of sixty-four thousand six hundred eighty-four dollars and seventy-eight cents ($64,684.78) is a just and valid claim against the estate of Sophia M. Bristol, deceased, in favor of said Washington County, besides the costs and disbursements herein to be taxed."

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