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In Re Estate of Brouskos

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 15, 1983.

IN RE ESTATE OF PETER BROUSKOS, DECEASED (SAMUEL J. BETAR, ADM'R OF THE ESTATE OF PETER BROUSKOS, APPELLANT,

v.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLEE).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Eugene L. Wachowski, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE LINN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This is an appeal brought by the administrator of the estate of Peter Brouskos from a decision of the circuit court of Cook County that a residuary bequest to a charity located in Greece was not exempt from inheritance tax under section 28 of the Inheritance and Transfer Tax Law (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 120, par. 401). The administrator argues in this appeal that (1) the trial court's findings that the charitable nature of the residuary beneficiary and the existence of reciprocity between Illinois and Greece had not been established were against the manifest weight of the evidence and (2) the inheritance tax exemption provided in section 28 is applicable to bequests to charitable organizations in foreign countries if reciprocity between that country and Illinois exists. The appellee, the State of Illinois, argues in addition that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to hear the administrator's petition for reassessment of inheritance tax.

The State does not dispute the charitable nature of the beneficiary or the existence of reciprocal inheritance tax exemptions from the government of Greece. Although these were the issues on which the trial court's order was based, the State apparently abandoned its argument in this regard on appeal to rely instead on this court's intervening decision in In re Estate of Cohen (1983), 112 Ill. App.3d 265, 445 N.E.2d 391.

We affirm the decision of the trial court.

FACTS

Peter Brouskos, a United States citizen, died testate in Greece in 1976. He owned real property in Illinois. The office of the Illinois Public Administrator was appointed to take responsibility for the assets of the estate, effect burial of the decedent, and administer the estate. Brouskos' will was admitted to probate by the circuit court of Cook County on February 22, 1977. The administrator of the estate filed his inheritance tax return on April 16, 1979. The return claimed charitable exemptions under section 28 of the Inheritance and Transfer Tax Law (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 120, par. 401) for bequests to two beneficiaries: Saint Varvara Church, Tripolis, Arcadia, Greece, and the Dekazeion Home for the Aged, Tripolis, Arcadia, Greece.

The Attorney General filed objections to the inheritance tax return on behalf of the State of Illinois; a hearing on the matter was held on August 6, 1979. On December 31, 1979, the circuit court entered its order assessing inheritance tax against the bequest to the Dekazeion Home. On May 19, 1981, the Consul General of Greece wrote the Inheritance Tax Division of the Attorney General of Illinois that the Dekazeion Home is a private charitable institution receiving its financial support from private benefactors and the Greek Orthodox Church, not from the government of Greece.

On February 26, 1982, the administrator filed a petition under section 10 of the Inheritance and Transfer Tax Law (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 120, par. 384) seeking reassessment of the inheritance tax, specifically requesting that no tax be assessed against the bequest to the Dekazeion Home. The State's response to the petition alleged that the assessment was proper because the Dekazeion Home is "[n]ot a private charitable organization, but an agency of the government * * *. Further, the State denies that [the estate] is entitled to a reciprocal exemption in a situation such as this." The State's response further stated that "the Petition contains no new or additional facts under which a Petition for Reassessment could be entertained" under section 10. Memoranda in support of and opposition to the petition for reassessment subsequently were filed.

On September 1, 1982, the circuit court denied the administrator's petition for reassessment. The order recited the court's findings that the charitable status of the Dekazeion Home had not been established and that the "question of reciprocity between the foreign government and the State of Illinois does not exist." The administrator appeals from this order.

OPINION

• 1 A threshold issue in this appeal is the State's argument that the circuit court did not have jurisdiction to hear the administrator's petition for reassessment because section 10 of the Inheritance and Transfer Tax Law, under which the petition was filed, is not applicable to the facts of the case at bar. Section 10 provides:

"Sec. 384. Refunding excess of tax by State Treasurer.

When it appears that errors have inadvertently occurred in the inheritance tax proceedings resulting in an erroneous amount of tax paid to the State Treasurer, such errors may be corrected and the order of assessment modified accordingly in a proper proceeding, and the executor, administrator or trustee, person or persons, corporation or corporations who have paid such tax in error, shall be entitled to a refund from the State Treasurer of the amount of such tax erroneously paid: Provided, that this section shall not apply to any errors in the valuations of the property of the decedent as appraised, or in the rules of law applied in determining the taxability of the several successions: Provided, that all applications for the repayment of any tax under this section shall be made within two years from the date of such payment." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 120, par. 384.)

The State disagrees with the administrator's claim that an inadvertent error, which would invoke the application of this ...


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