Williams v. Benedict
49 U.S. 107

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U.S. Supreme Court

Williams v. Benedict, 49 U.S. 8 How. 107 107 (1850)

Williams v. Benedict

49 U.S. (8 How.) 107

Syllabus

The laws of Mississippi direct that where the insolvency of the estate of a deceased person shall be reported to the orphans' court, that court shall order a sale of the property, and distribute the proceeds thereof amongst the creditors pro rata, and that in the meantime no execution shall issue upon a judgment obtained against such insolvent estate.

A judgment obtained against the administrator before the declaration by the orphans' court of the insolvency of the estate is not upon that account entitled to a preference, but must share in the general distribution.

But this Court expresses no opinion as to the right of state legislation to compel foreign creditors in all cases to seek their remedy against the estates of decedents in the state courts alone, to the exclusion of the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States.

The appellant, Thomas Williams, was complainant below in a bill setting forth that letters of administration on the estate of Benjamin J. Baldwin, deceased, were granted to him in October, 1838. That at the time he entered upon said administration and made an inventory of the estate, he confidently believed that his intestate's estate would be amply sufficient to satisfy all his creditors. That at November term, 1839, the respondents obtained a judgment against him in the district court of the United States for a debt due to them by the intestate. That the complainant, having then discovered that the estate would not be sufficient to pay the debts of the deceased, suggested its insolvency to the probate court on the first Monday of December following, whereupon the court adjudged

Page 49 U. S. 108

the estate insolvent, and appointed commissioners to receive and audit the claims. That, to the great wrong of the intestate's other creditors, an execution has been since issued on the judgment of Benedict & Benedict and levied by the marshal on a large portion of the most valuable property of the intestate, thereby preventing the sale of it by the administrator under the order of the Probate court. Wherefore he prays the court to grant him a writ of audita querela, and to order a writ of supersedeas to issue to the marshal, to stay the execution, and for further relief.

On this bill, the judge ordered an injunction to issue. The respondents afterwards appeared and demurred to the bill for want of equity, and afterwards, at June term, 1845, upon hearing, the court decreed that defendants' demurrer to plaintiff's bill of complaint be sustained, and the bill dismissed. At the same term, it was ordered that the final decree be enrolled, and an appeal allowed to this Court. A writ of error was also issued.

The 80th section of the statute of Mississippi concerning the estates of decedents (Howard & Hutchinson 409) provides that

"When the estate both real and personal of any person deceased shall be insolvent, or insufficient to pay all the just debts which the deceased owed, the said estate, both real and personal, shall be distributed to and among the creditors, in proportion to the sums to them respectively due and owing, and the executor or administrator shall exhibit to the orphans' court an account and statement &c. And if it appear to the said orphans' court that such estate is insolvent, then, after ordering the lands, tenements &c., of the testator or intestate to be sold, they shall appoint two or more persons to be commissioners, with full power to receive and examine all claims of the several creditors of such estate,"

&c. And the court are afterwards required to make distribution pro rata among the creditors, after paying the funeral expenses &c.

The 98th section provides that no execution shall issue on any judgment obtained against any such insolvent estate, but it shall and may be filed as a claim against it, &c.

Page 49 U. S. 111

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