Rocca v. Thompson
223 U.S. 317 (1912)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Rocca v. Thompson, 223 U.S. 317 (1912)

Rocca v. Thompson

No. 292

Argued January 17, 18, 1912

Decided February 19, 1912

223 U.S. 317

Syllabus

Instructions of the head of a department must be read in light of the statute directly bearing on the subject, and so held that instructions of the Secretary of State to consuls in regard to administering effects of citizens of the United States dying in foreign lands must be read in the light of § 1709, Rev.Stat.

There is no federal probate law, but right to administer property left by a foreigner within the jurisdiction of a state is primarily committed to state law.

Quaere whether it is within the treaty-making power of the national government to provide by treaty with foreign nations for administration of property of foreigners dying within a state, and to commit such administration to consuls of the nation to which deceased owed allegiance.

"Intervene in the possession and administration of the deceased" as the expression is used in the Argentine Treaty of 1853, is to be construed as permitting the consul of either contracting nation to temporarily possess the estate of his national for the purpose of protecting it, before it comes under the jurisdiction of the laws of the country, or to protect the interests of his national in an administration already instituted otherwise than by him.

Under the Argentine Treaty of 1853, a consul has not the right to the original administration of the estate of a deceased national to the exclusion of one authorized by local law to administer the estate.

While treaties are to be liberally construed, they are to be read in the light of conditions existing when entered into with a view to effecting the objects of the contracting states.

The law of the Argentine Republic, as brought to the attention of this Court, does not give to consuls of foreign countries the right to administer the estates of deceased nationals, but only to appoint an executor, which appointment is to be communicated to the testamentary judge.

Quaere whether the most favored nation clause included in the Treaty with Italy of 1878 carries the provisions of the Argentine Treaty of

Page 223 U. S. 318

1853 in regard to the administration by consuls of the estate of deceased nationals.

In California, the public administrator is entitled to administer the estate of an Italian citizen dying and leaving an estate in California, in preference to the Consul-General of the Kingdom of Italy, and so held after construing the provision of the Treaty of 1878 with Italy, and that of 1853 with the Argentine Republic.

157 Cal. 552 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the construction of the provisions of the Treaty of 1878 with Italy and that of 1853 with the Argentine Republic in regard to the right of consuls to administer estates of their respective natives dying in the United States, are stated in the opinion.

Page 223 U. S. 324

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