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Canterbury v. Mandeville

June 23, 1942

CANTERBURY
v.
MANDEVILLE ET AL.



Appeal from the District Court of the United States, for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division; Philip L. Sullivan, judge.

Author: Kerner

Before EVANS and KERNER, Circuit Judges, and LINDLEY, District Judge.

KERNER, Circuit Judge.

This appeal questions the propriety of an order restraining the defendants from prosecuting certain suits instituted by them in the state courts of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Greek miller Canterbury, as plaintiff, brought this suit in equity, seeking a construction of the will of Richard A. Canterbury devising lands in illinois, Minnesota, and wisconsin. She did not seek to affect directly the lands in Minnesota or Wisconsin, but sought only to establish her claimed interest in the trusts created by the will.

Canterbury died on September 19, 1906 leaving him surviving Emma C. Canterbury, his widow, since deceased; Richard C. Canterbury, his son; Lucy A. Durkes, Leona S. Canterbury, and Emma M. Canterbury, his daughters. Richard C. Canterbury is now deceased. He left him surviving, the plaintiff, his widow; Leona s. Mandeville and Emma M. Wilson, his sisters; and Katherine d. roe and leona D. Wilson, children of Lucy A. Durkes, his nieces. Lucy A. Durkes is now deceased and she left her surviving, Katherine D. Roe and Leona D. Wilson, her daughters, Leona S. Mandeville died in april, 1941, leaving her surviving, Maurice Mandeville, her husband, and Richard C. Mandeville, her son.Emma M. Wilson is now the sole surviving child of the testator. She has two children who have not been made party defendants.

The will of Richard A. Canterbury was admitted to probate on October 18, 1906, by the Probate Court of Cook County, illinois. It created certain trust estates for the benefit of his widow and children during the life of the survivor of his four children and for five years thereafter. These trust estates consisted of real estate located in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

Richard C. Canterbury died testate in January, 1940. His will was admitted to probate on January 15, 1940, by the Probate Court of Lake County, illinois, and Maurice Mandeville duly qualified as executor of his will. Under his will plaintiff was given all of his household goods, wearing apparel and jewelry, and, in addition, one half of the rest, residue and remainder of all his property wherever situated.

The complaint alleged that when Richard C. Canterbury died, he was and had been vested with an inheritable, undivided fractional interest in the real and personal property constituting the trust estates, and that under his will plaintiff became vested with an undivided interest thereof; that the defendant trustees deny that plaintiff has any interest in the trust estates, refuse to recognize her claim or to set off to her, her share in the trust estate; and that plaintiff prays the court to construe the will of Richard A. Canterbury, find and decree that she has a vested interest in the property in the trusts, fix the amount thereof, and quiet her title, etc.

The defendants answered that they rightfully refused to recognize any claim of the plaintiff and averred that there was no call for a judicial construction of the will because the terms of it were clear and definite.

Thereafter, in April, 1941, the defendants filed a suit against plaintiff in a state court in minnesota, to construe the portions of the will of Richard a. Canterbury which devised lands located in that state. In June, 1941, Richard C. Mandeville petitioned for - and there were issued to him by the County Court of Rock county, Wisconsin - ancillary letters in the estate of Richard A. Canterbury, deceased, and thereupon he filed a petition in which he alleged that he is unable to determine the right of the beneficiaries and prayed for a construction of the will.At about the same time the defendants filed another complaint against plaintiff and Richard C. Mandeville in a state court in wisconsin, to construe the portions of the will of Richard A. Canterbury which devised lands located in the State of Wisconsin.

Thereafter, the plaintiff petitioned the District Court to restrain the defendants from further pursuing the suits in the state courts of minnesota and Wisconsin, seeking the construction of the will of Richard A. Canterbury, deceased. Defendants answered claiming that the plaintiff's complaint failed to state a cause of action for the construction of the will as to lands in Minnesota and Wisconsin and that the suits in the state courts did not defeat or impair the jurisdiction of the District Court. After due hearing, the District Court found that the application for a temporary injunction was well taken and should be sustained because it was the first court to acquire jurisdiction in the premises, that the institution and the continued prosecution of the state court proceedings by the defendants tend to and will prejudice, affect, impair, and ultimately defeat the jurisdiction of the District Court. The court thereupon enjoined the defendants from further prosecuting those certain suits in the state courts seeking the construction of the will of Richard A. Canterbury. The order, however, did not restrain the defendants from proceeding with the ancillary administration proceedings.

Defendants' principal contention appears to be that the trial court lacked jurisdiction. They argue that the probate of a will in one state does not establish the validity of the document as a will devising real estate in another state.

It is true that no instrument can be effective as a will until proved, and no rights in relation to it can arise until preliminary probate has been first made, Ellis v. Davis, 109 U.S. 485, 3 S. Ct. 327, 27 L. Ed. 1006. Even so, the will in the instant case has been proved and admitted to probate by the Probate Court of Cook County, Illinois, a court of competent jurisdiction,*fn1 and under the statutes of Wisconsin*fn2 and Minnesota,*fn3 the procedure for establishing a will proved in another state is simply pro forma, Babcock v. Collins, 60 Minn. 73, 61 N.W. 1020, 51 Am.St.Rep. 503. The statutes of those states provide that when a will has been probated in a foreign state and it shall appear to the court that the order or decree admitting such will to probate was made by a court of competent jurisdiction and is still in force, the ...


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