Monday, April 20, 2015


SECTION 3-202 Uniform Probate Code . APPOINTMENT OR TESTACY PROCEEDINGS; CONFLICTING CLAIM OF DOMICILE IN ANOTHER STATE. If conflicting claims as to the domicile of a decedent are made in a formal testacy or appointment proceeding commenced in this state, and in a testacy or appointment proceeding after notice pending at the same time in another state, the court of this state must stay, dismiss, or permit suitable amendment in, the proceeding here unless it is determined that the local proceeding was commenced before the proceeding elsewhere. The determination of domicile in the proceeding first commenced must be accepted as determinative in the proceeding in this state.
This section is designed to reduce the possibility that conflicting findings of domicile in two or more states may result in inconsistent administration and distribution of parts of the same estate. Section 3-408 dealing with the effect of adjudications in other states concerning testacy supports the same general purpose to use domiciliary law to unify succession of property located in different states.
Whether testate or intestate, succession should follow the presumed wishes of the decedent whenever possible. Unless a decedent leaves a separate will for the portion of his estate located in each different state, it is highly unlikely that he would want different portions of his estate subject to different rules simply because courts reach conflicting conclusions concerning his domicile. It is pointless to debate whether he would prefer one or the other of the conflicting rules, when the paramount inference is that the decedent would prefer that his estate be unified under either rule rather than wasted in litigation.
The section adds very little to existing law. If a previous estate proceeding in State A has determined that the decedent was a domiciliary of A, persons who were personally before the court in A would be precluded by the principles of res judicata or collateral estoppel (and full faith and credit) from relitigating the issue of domicile in a later proceeding in State B.
Probably, it would not matter in this setting that domicile was a jurisdictional fact. Stoll v. Gottlieb, 59 S.Ct. 134, 305 U.S. 165, 83 L. Ed. 104 (1938). Even if the parties to a present proceeding were not personally before the court in an earlier proceeding in State A involving the same decedent, the prior judgment would be binding as to property subject to the power of the courts in A, on persons to whom due notice of the proceeding was given. Riley v. New York Trust Co., 62 S.Ct. 608, 315 U.S. 343, 86 L. Ed. 885 (1942); Mullane v. Central Hanover Bank and Trust Co., 70 S.Ct. 652, 339 U.S. 306, 94 L. Ed. 865 (1950).

Where a court learns that parties before it are also parties to previously initiated litigation involving a common question, traditional judicial reluctance to deciding unnecessary questions, as well as considerations of comity, are likely to lead it to delay the local proceedings to await the result in the other court. A somewhat more troublesome question is involved when one of the parties before the local court manifests a determination not to appear personally in the prior initiated proceedings so that he can preserve his ability to litigate contested points in a more friendly, or convenient, forum. But, the need to preserve all possible advantages available to particular litigants should be subordinated to the decedent’s probable wish that his estate not be wasted in unnecessary litigation. Thus, the section requires that the local claimant either initiate litigation in the forum of his choice before litigation is started somewhere else, or accept the necessity of contesting unwanted views concerning the decedent’s domicile offered in litigation pending elsewhere.
It is to be noted, in this connection, that the local suitor always will have a chance to contest the question of domicile in the other state. His locally initiated proceedings may proceed to a valid judgment accepting his theory of the case unless parties who would oppose him appear and defend on the theory that the domicile question is currently being litigated elsewhere. If the litigation in the other state has proceeded to judgment, Section 3-408 rather than the instant section will govern. If this section applies, it will mean that the foreign proceedings are still pending, so that the local person’s contention concerning domicile can be made therein even though until the defense of litigation elsewhere is offered in the local proceedings, he may not have been notified of the foreign proceeding. 

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