is a “Lusitania Disaster”-generated probate case, with a twist of
obscurity. Evan Jones emigrated from
Wales to Iowa in 1883, when he was 33 years old, and became a naturalized American in 1896, becoming an
active citizen. He married an American
citizen, curiously, the widow of another man named “Jones”; Evan had met them
both on the boat over and settled in their town. Evan left Wales in the first place because of
a “bastardy” proceeding pending against him brought by the mother of the
appellant in this case. In re Jones Estate[:] Adams v. Smith, 182
N.W.227 (Iowa 1921).
miner in Wales. He continued to be an industrious and thrifty fellow in Iowa
and accumulated substantial properties. In 1915, Evan disposed of most
(probably) of his property and had
$22,000.00 in cash, 20,000.00 left in a bank account. The rest of the cash he took with him and returned to Wales,
where he told the banker he intended to live with his sister.
to live out his years since he was a “Lusitania-casualty.” (As background, it might be worth keeping in
mind that $22.000.00 in 1915 would, in June 2015, amount to $511,471.68 in
There was apparently no dispute as to the facts of the case. From the looks of
the opinion, the question was whether the sister of Evan or his bastard
daughter were entitled to the money left
at the bank, and whatever else was in the estate. Here is how the Iowa Supreme
Court formulated the issue:
in this case, is whether or not, under the facts stated, the domicile of the
decedent at the time of his death was in Wapello County, Iowa or Wales. If his domicile at the
time of the Lusitania sank was legally in Wales, then it is conceded by all the
parties that, the appellant, as his illegitimate child, would have no interest
in his estate. On the other hand, if the decedent at said time legally
had his domicile in Wapello County, Iowa,
then the property passes to the appellant as his sole heir under the laws of
the parties had agreed that Jones was permanently
leaving his home in Iowa and intended to live out his days back in Wales.
to the course, the issue of “Where is the domicile of X?” or “Where was X
domiciled when?” has been discussed by courts from time to time, but the facts
of those cases do not resemble those in this one. In addition
most of the “domicile cases” involve trying to distinguish between domicile and
residence. In this case the precise question before the court was “Where was [Jones’]
domicile for the purpose of descent of personal property on the 7th
day of May, 1915, when the Lusitania was sunk off the western coast of the
to the court, it was generally recognized that there were three classes of
domiciles: of origin (where born), of choice (or by election by the person at
issue), and by operation of law. Only the first two mattered to this,
observed the court. In addition, the first of these three is probably not really relevant since it is mainly for “infants.”
purposes. For example, according to various courts, a person might have two of
them for tax purposes or several others
purposes. That is not the case when it comes to domicile
for the purpose of descent of personal
for us to cite the vast number of cases announcing the general rule that the
acquisition of a new domicile must have been completely perfected, and hence
there must have been a concurrence both of the fact of removal and the intent
to remain in the new locality before the former domicile can be considered lost.
court reviewed a number of English cases
and a number of much earlier American
cases. There have been two different rules, and the court adopts
once legally acquired is retained until a new domicile is secured, and that, in
the acquisition of such a new domicile, both the fact and the intention must
concur, it seems to us is a rule of universal and general application and that
there is neither good logic nor substantial reason for the application of an
exception to that rule in the case where the party is in itinerate toward the domicile of origin.
daughter lived in Wales all along. One
wonders what happened in the bastardy lawsuit against “Father Jones” which
stimulated his move to Iowa in the first place.
So we have Evan’s sister who lived in Wales suing his daughter who
apparently also lived in Wale, but doing so in Iowa.
think that it looks like Evan raised as step-children, the children of the
widow he met on the boat over and then married in Iowa. (Ms. Jones was then
traveling with her first husband also named– guess what–“Jones.”) However
many step children there were, they got nothing in this case.
wonder what all was actually going one. Don’t
wonder too much. A surprising twist is to be
found in an associated case that will be outlined below.
is reasonable to infer that Evan died intestate. Why would a careful fellow
like he appear to have failed to have a will or something of the sort? Again
one wonders if we know all the facts.
Fourth, the opinion
itself is interesting though much of the discussion was unnecessary,
relationship between residence and domicile, old English law on domiciles of
origin, and how Supreme Court of the United States Justice Story felt about this
portion of English law as revealed in an 1812 opinion he wrote while sitting on
Federal Circuit Court and spelled out again in his famous 1834 treatise on
conflicts of law. (Then again I
must confess that the discussion of the Supreme Court of the United States in The Venus case, 8 Cranch 252 (1804), with which the opinion, in this case,
is in accord is amusing.)
v. Smith, 183 N.W. 600 (Iowa 1921). Evan married his wife Jane Jones in 1906. (Remember, they met on the boat coming over
to the United States, and Jane’s first husband died.) Jane has a daughter Sarahh Griffith; she was grown at the time of the Evan-Jane wedding and had both a
separate home and family.
health, and died intestate in January 1914.” She left a small estate consisting
of almost 30 acres of land. Before her
mother’s “death sickness,” she (Jane) was nearly helpless and needed to be taken care of. Sarahh was often the helper since she and her mother lived in the same
neighborhood. The amount of time Sarahh had to spend on this went up and up as her
mother’s help went down and down.
Furthermore, Evan often sent for her to give him a hand.
made no claim against her mother estate, and she made no claim against that of
Evan. However, she filed a claim for the
services she performed at Evan’s request; the sum she sought was $1,820.00—the
buying power of which in 2015 is $42,312.66.
denied the claim asserting that they were not rendered at the request of Evan.
Subsequently, the administrator claimed that they were done for the mother and should come out of her estate and not
that of Evan. According to the court,
Jones, having a statutory interest in the land of which she died seized,
conveyed the same by deed to the surviving children of his deceased wife
(including the plaintiff herein), and in consideration of such conveyance or
relinquishment the grantees assumed and agreed to pay all the indebtedness
existing against her estate.
did not render the services she describes, that they were defective, or that
Evan didn’t ask for the help. The fact
that Sarah was Jane’s daughter does not relieve Evan of owing money.
car, support and nursing for his sick wife.
His was the primary duty to furnish all
the needed care, support and help which her condition required and when he
expressly or impliedly requested the plaintiff to meet these wants and supply
these needs[,] the law imposed upon him the obligation to pay therefor[e].
arranged with Jane’s children did not imply that Sarah’s charges should have been made against her mother’s estate. No facts
suggest that the agreement of the grantees of the land in question committed
themselves to paying for Sarah’s services. It is nothing but a form of “tortured”
legal argument trying to obtain a release for Evan’s Estate.
merit in the administrator’s case, including his claim that even if Evan’s
estate owed something, it couldn’t be what Sarah sought since he work wasn’t worth that much. The court’s reaction was what is today
sometimes called a “benchslap.” “It comes with
rather poor grace for the appellant to make this claim at this stage of the
proceedings, in fact of the fact that not a word of testimony was offered to
show that the services were not in fact rendered, or that their value was
materially less than the estimate put upon them by plaintiff or by her
Evan’s bastard Welsh daughter was trying to hand on to all the money she could
get? After all, no one, in this case, meant anything to her; she
didn’t know any of them, including Evan, and certainly not Jane.
trial-level court, so Sarah presumably got paid for her good works.
Originally posted on 06/28/2015 @ 1:05 pm