Allen v. Smith (173 U.S. 389)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

173 U.S. 389

Allen  v.  Smith

This was a controversy a ising over the distribution of the estate of Richard H. Allen, a large sugar planter of Lafourche parish, Louisiana, who died September 14, 1894, leaving a will, of which the following clauses only are material to the disposition of this case:

'I give to my wife, Bettie Allen, one-half on my Rienzi plantation, and one-half of all tools, mules, etc. The names of my executors, etc., will be named hereafter. My executors shall have from one to five years to sell and close up the estate, as I fear property will be very low and dull. They can sell part cash, part on time; eight per cent. interest, with vendor's lien. I will that my wife do have onehalf of everything belonging to Rienzi, except the claim due me by the United States. That and other property I will speak of further on. I appoint as my executors Ogden Smith and W. F. Collins, residing on Rienzi plantation. I also appoint Mrs. Bettie Allen executrix. I give them full power to sell Rienzi plantation whenever they find a good offer for all the property there belonging. When it is sold, half of all the proceeds, cash, notes, etc., is to belong to my dear wife, Bettie Allen. The other half will be spoken of hereafter. As I fear property will be very low, I give my executors five years to work for a good price. In the meantime, that they are waiting to sell, the place can be rented or worked so as to pay all taxes and other charges; any over that to go to Mrs. Bettie Allen's credit.'

Letters testamentary were issued to William F. Collins, Ogden Smith, and M. Elizabeth Greene, the widow, better known as Bettie Allen, who were authorized by special order to carry on and work the plantation, etc.

The executors did not agree as to the disposition of the estate; Mrs. Allen and Collins filing a provisional account of their administration, and praying for its approval, while Smith filed a separate account, prayed for its approval, and stated that he disagreed with his co-executors in several particulars, and therefore filed an account in which his co-executors did not concur. The principal dispute seems to have been over the cash left by the deceased, which Mrs. Allen claimed under the will, and Smith insisted belonged to the legal heirs who were not cut off by the will. Mrs. Allen also claimed the crop of the Rienzi plantation, while Smith insisted it belonged to the legatees named in the will, to whom the realty was bequeathed. Oppositions to the approval of both accounts were also filed by various parties interested in the estate, and for various reasons not necessary to be here enumerated. Judgment was delivered by the district court, June 10, 1895, settling the questions in dispute between the parties interested; and an appeal was taken to the supreme court of Louisiana, which rendered an opinion March 9, 1896, varying the decree of the court below to the extent of holding Mrs. Allen entitled to the net proceeds of the crop for the year 1894, but affirming it in other respects. 48 La. Ann. 1036, 20 South. 193. No reference, however, was made in the proceedings up to this time to the government bounty upon sugar, amounting to $11,569.35, which was collected by Mrs. Allen, and which forms the subject of the present litigation.

This suit was initiated by a petition filed August 18, 1896, by Collins and Mrs. Allen, for the approval of their final account, and of the proposed distribution of the undistributed assets, among which was the bounty granted by congress for sugar produced on the Rienzi plantation for the year 1894; the portion received, $11,569.35, being all that the estate was entitled to out of the appropriation made by congress for this purpose. 'This amount the accountants proposed to turn over to Mrs. Bettie Allen, as the owner of the net proceeds of the crop of 1894 on the Rienzi plantation, under the will of the testator, and the decree of the supreme court.'

Smith also filed a final account, and an opposition to that of Mrs. Allen and Collins, particularly opposing giving any part of the bounty to Mrs. Allen; stating t at 'this money formed no part of the crop of 1894, is an unwilled asset, and must be distributed among the legal heirs who have not been cut off by the will, in accordance with the petitioner's final account filed herewith.' These heirs, as stated by him in his account, were (1) the estate of Thomas H. Allen, Sr., a deceased brother of the testator, represented by J. Louis Aucoin, administrator; (2) two children of Mrs. Myra Turner, a deceased sister; (3) five children of Mrs. Cynthia Smith, a deceased sister. Opposition was also filed by these several classes of heirs to the accounts of Mrs. Allen and Collins; and by certain other heirs, who were not recognized by the executors, to that of Smith. Upon consideration of these various pleadings, and the testimony introduced in connection therewith, the district court was of opinion that the bounty formed no part of the crop proper, or the proceeds thereof; 'though based on the crop, as a means of calculation, and conditioned on the production of the crop by the owner of the plantation, under certain rules, it was a pure gratuity from the government;' that it did not, therefore, go to Mrs. Allen, under the will, but to the heirs as an unwilled portion.

An appeal was taken to the supreme court by the Smith heirs, by Ogden Smith, executor, and by Mrs. Allen and Collins. That court first held that the bounty was a gratuity from the government, though based upon an estimate of the crop, as a means of calculation; that its allowance was conditioned on the fulfillment by the deceased of certain prerequisites; that the equitable claim of the deceased to the bounty had been created during his lifetime, the license obtained, and all conditions precedent complied with; that it formed no part of the crops of 1894 or 1895, nor of their proceeds; that the executors did nothing but make the necessary proofs preparatory to its collection, and receive payment of the money; 'it must consequently be classed as an unwilled asset of the deceased, and not as part of the net proceeds of the crop of 1894, passing, under the will, to Mrs. Bettie Allen'; and that it must pass to the account of the legal heirs. 49 La. Ann. 1096, 22 South. 319. Upon a rehearing, applied for by both parties, that court modified its views, and adjudged that the bounty money in controversy be divided equally; that one-half be distributed among the heirs, as an unwilled portion; and that the other half be delivered to Mrs. Allen, as legatee. From this decree both parties sued out a writ of error from this court. 49 La. Ann. 1112, 22 South. 325.

James F. Pierson and Charlton R. Beattie, for Allen and others.

Charles Payne Fenner and Charles E. Fenner, for Aucoin, administrator.

Henry Chiapella, for Smith and others.

Mr. Justice BROWN, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the court.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).