A motion to file an original bill will be denied when the
complaining state is clearly not entitled to the relief ought. P.
248 U. S.
Where the only effective relief sought is to enjoin the
administration by the court of another state of personal property
(in this case, note and bonds) located there at the time of the
owner's death, relief must clearly be denied because, even though
the property may have been fraudulently placed there to avoid
taxation in the complainant state, which is alleged to be the
domicile of the owner, the the actual situs had the right to
administer the property. Id.
Motion for leave to file bill of complaint denied.
The case is stated in the opinion.
Page 248 U. S. 117
MR. JUSTICE BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the Court.
With a view to collecting ultimately at least $13,750 for taxes
which the State of Iowa alleges it is entitled to have assessed and
levied against the property of Abraham Slimmer, deceased, it asks
leave to file in this Court an original bill of complaint against
the State of Minnesota, Abraham Slimmer, Jr., and Charles
Bechhoefer, citizens of Minnesota, and Adolph Lipman, a citizen of
Wisconsin. The bill alleges in substance as follows:
1. Slimmer, who had for many years been a resident of and
domiciled in Iowa, died there testate on August 15, 1917, leaving
personal property valued at $550,000, and
Page 248 U. S. 118
consisting, with the exception of personal effects and a few
United States Liberty Bonds, wholly of promissory notes. All of
this property, except the personal effects and one note for $3,000,
was then in Minnesota in the possession of Slimmer, Jr., who had
had custody of the decedent's property for at least five years
before his death. The $3,000 note was brought by him and Bechhoefer
into Minnesota immediately thereafter.
2. For the period of at least five years before his death,
Slimmer, Sr., had conspired with Slimmer, Jr., and Bechhoefer to
defraud the State of Iowa of taxes which, by reason of his domicile
in Iowa, might and should have been assessed there against his
property during his lifetime, and to this end he had arranged with
them that his will (if he should leave one) should be probated in
Minnesota, had placed in the custody of Slimmer, Jr., in Minnesota,
all his property, except his personal effects and the one note for
$3,000, and had concealed his property from the Iowa officials and
refused to return the same for taxation there.
3. Pursuant to this conspiracy, Slimmer, Jr., and Bechhoefer
filed his will for probate in Minnesota on or about August 21,
1917, and procured the appointment of Bechhoefer as special
administrator, and, by falsely claiming that decedent was domiciled
there, secured ex parte
a finding to that effect, the
probate of the will, and the appointment of themselves as
executors. From this decree, the defendant Lipman, claiming to be
an heir, appealed, and this appeal, which is now pending, has the
effect of suspending the decree and leaving the property in the
hands of the special administrator. The State of Iowa has not
become a party to these proceedings.
4. Under the laws of Iowa, omissions to list and assess property
may be corrected and the taxes collected within five years from the
date of such omission. But the amount properly payable for taxes by
Slimmer's estate cannot be
Page 248 U. S. 119
collected without assessment and levy thereof against his
personal representatives, and such assessment and levy must be made
within the State of Iowa.
5. On January 7, 1918, the District Court of Dubuque County,
Iowa (in a proceeding begun apparently on or about that day)
decreed at the instance of the treasurer of that state that
Slimmer, Sr., was domiciled therein, and granted to one Mullaney
letters of administration of his estate. About the same date, the
state, learning that Slimmer, Jr., and Bechhoefer were about to
come into it for the purpose of taking testimony in the Minnesota
probate proceedings, obtained from said district court an
injunction restraining the witness from testifying and the
designated officers from taking their depositions. Slimmer, Jr.,
and Bechhoefer have not been served in the Iowa suit and have
declared their purpose to avoid service within that state.
The bill prays that it be adjudged and decreed: (a) that
Slimmer, Sr., had for more than five years prior to his death been
domiciled in Iowa; (b) that his estate consisted of evidences of
indebtedness to him and that no part of his estate was at his death
in Minnesota; (c) that Iowa has and Minnesota has not jurisdiction
to administer upon his estate, and prays also (d) that such order
be entered as will insure the dismissal of the Minnesota probate
proceedings and the administration of the estate in Iowa, and (e)
that, pending this suit, an injunction issue restraining the
prosecution of the Minnesota probate proceedings.
The motion for leave to file the bill was submitted ex
In view of doubt entertained as to the propriety of
granting it, consideration of the application was postponed (as in
Minnesota v. Northern Securities Co., 184 U.
, and Washington v. Northern Securities
Co., 185 U. S. 254
that the parties might be heard, and the motion was fully argued
orally and upon briefs. Both the state
Page 248 U. S. 120
of Minnesota and the individual defendants other than Lipman
objected to the granting of leave to file the bill. The state
objected on the grounds that the only effective relief sought was
an injunction against a proceeding in a state court; that the
Minnesota probate court had exclusive jurisdiction to administer
assets of a decedent within its borders, regardless of his
domicile, and also that there was no authority granted by the state
legislature for such an action in the federal courts. The
individual defendants objected on the grounds that the Iowa
administrator was the proper party plaintiff; that he was, in any
event, a necessary party and joining him would oust the court of
jurisdiction; that the relief sought would deny to the action of
the Minnesota court full faith and credit, and that plaintiff had
an adequate remedy at law. The original jurisdiction of the Court
to entertain a bill of this character was also questioned. Only one
of these objections need be considered, for it presents a
conclusive reason why leave to file the bill of complaint should be
Substantially the whole of decedent's estate consisted of notes
and bonds. Under an arrangement which had been in force for five
years or more, these securities were, at the time of his death, in
Minnesota in the custody and possession of an agent resident there.
Minnesota imposes inheritance taxes, and its statutes provide
(Minnesota Gen.Stats., 1913, § 2281) that no transfer of the
property of a nonresident decedent shall be made until the taxes
due thereon shall have been paid. Regardless of the domicile of the
decedent, these notes and bonds were subject to probate proceedings
in that state and likewise subject, at least, to inheritance taxes.
Minnesota Gen.Stats., 1913, §§ 7205, 2271; Bristol v.
Washington County, 177 U. S. 133
Wheeler v. New York, 233 U. S. 434
Furthermore, so far as concerns the property of the decedent,
located at his death in Minnesota, the probate courts of
Page 248 U. S. 121
that state had jurisdiction to determine the domicile.
Overby v. Gordon, 177 U. S. 214
even if decedent was not domiciled in Minnesota, its court had the
power either to distribute property located there according to the
terms of the will applicable thereto or to direct that it be
transmitted to the personal representative of the decedent at the
place of his domicile to be disposed of by him. Minnesota
Gen.Stats., 1913, § 7278; Harvey v. Richards,
1 Mason 381.
See Wilkins v. Ellett, 108 U. S. 256
108 U. S.
On or about August 21, 1917, Slimmer's executors filed their
petition in the probate court for Ramsey County, Minnesota, and the
court, in the exercise of its jurisdiction, appointed the defendant
Bechhoefer special administrator. As such, he took and now holds,
pending an appeal to the state district court, possession of the
whole of decedent's estate, consisting of the notes and Liberty
Bonds as well as the personal effects. The only effective relief
sought here is to enjoin the further administration of the estate
of the deceased by the courts of Minnesota. It is clear that the
State of Iowa is not entitled to such relief.
The motion for leave to file the bill of complaint is