A-11853, NOVEMBER 30, 1925, 5 COMP. GEN. 397

A-11853: Nov 30, 1925

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ISSUED BY A COURT OF COMPETENT JURISDICTION IN A STATE WHERE A LIMIT OF TIME IS FIXED BY STATUTE FOR ADMINISTRATION OF ESTATES. WILL CONSTITUTE A PROPER ACQUITTANCE TO THE GOVERNMENT. WHEN ADMINISTRATION OF AN ESTATE IS REFUSED BY THE STATE THE VETERANS' BUREAU MAY PROPERLY DETERMINE THE INDIVIDUAL HEIRS. WHERE THERE ARE CONFLICTING INTERESTS PAYMENT SHOULD BE MADE ONLY ON THE BASIS OF A DECREE OF COURT. 1925: I HAVE YOUR LETTER OF NOVEMBER 5. THE VETERANS' BUREAU MAY DETERMINE THE INDIVIDUALS ENTITLED TO THE ESTATE OF AN INSURED UNDER A POLICY OF TERM INSURANCE WHOSE DOMICILE WAS TEXAS IN CASES WHERE ADMINISTRATION OF THE ESTATE IS APPLIED FOR MORE THAN FOUR YEARS SUBSEQUENT TO THE DEATH OF THE INSURED.

A-11853, NOVEMBER 30, 1925, 5 COMP. GEN. 397

VETERANS' BUREAU - INSURANCE - PAYMENTS TO ESTATES OF INSURED IN MAKING PAYMENTS UNDER A POLICY OF UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT TERM INSURANCE TO THE ESTATE OF THE INSURED, PURSUANT TO THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 303 OF THE WORLD WAR VETERANS' ACT AS AMENDED BY THE ACT OF MARCH 4, 1925, 43 STAT. 1310, THE LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION, ISSUED BY A COURT OF COMPETENT JURISDICTION IN A STATE WHERE A LIMIT OF TIME IS FIXED BY STATUTE FOR ADMINISTRATION OF ESTATES, NEED NOT BE QUESTIONED MERELY ON THE LENGTH OF TIME SINCE THE DEATH OF THE INSURED, BUT PAYMENT TO THE ADMINISTRATOR, IN THE ABSENCE OF OTHER OBJECTION, WILL CONSTITUTE A PROPER ACQUITTANCE TO THE GOVERNMENT. WHEN ADMINISTRATION OF AN ESTATE IS REFUSED BY THE STATE THE VETERANS' BUREAU MAY PROPERLY DETERMINE THE INDIVIDUAL HEIRS, BUT WHERE THERE ARE CONFLICTING INTERESTS PAYMENT SHOULD BE MADE ONLY ON THE BASIS OF A DECREE OF COURT. DOUBTFUL CASES, WITH THE RECORD OF ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION THEREON, SHOULD BE SUBMITTED TO THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE FOR CONSIDERATION AND A DECISION IN ADVANCE OF PAYMENT BY A DISBURSING OFFICER.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL TO THE DIRECTOR, UNITED STATES VETERANS' BUREAU, NOVEMBER 30, 1925:

I HAVE YOUR LETTER OF NOVEMBER 5, 1925, REQUESTING DECISION WHETHER, IN COMPLYING WITH THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 303 OF THE WORLD WAR VETERANS' ACT AS AMENDED BY THE ACT OF MARCH 4, 1925, 43 STAT. 1310, THE VETERANS' BUREAU MAY DETERMINE THE INDIVIDUALS ENTITLED TO THE ESTATE OF AN INSURED UNDER A POLICY OF TERM INSURANCE WHOSE DOMICILE WAS TEXAS IN CASES WHERE ADMINISTRATION OF THE ESTATE IS APPLIED FOR MORE THAN FOUR YEARS SUBSEQUENT TO THE DEATH OF THE INSURED, A STATE STATUTE PROVIDING THAT APPLICATION FOR ADMINISTRATION FILED MORE THAN FOUR YEARS SUBSEQUENT TO THE DEATH OF AN INTESTATE "SHALL BE REFUSED AND DISMISSED.'

THE MATERIAL PORTION OF SECTION 303 OF THE WORLD WAR VETERANS' ACT AS AMENDED BY THE ACT OF MARCH 4, 1925, SUPRA, IS AS FOLLOWS:

IF NO PERSON WITHIN THE PERMITTED CLASS BE DESIGNATED AS BENEFICIARY FOR YEARLY RENEWABLE TERM INSURANCE BY THE INSURED EITHER IN HIS LIFETIME OR BY HIS LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OR IF THE DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY DOES NOT SURVIVE THE INSURED OR SURVIVES THE INSURED AND DIES PRIOR TO RECEIVING ALL OF THE TWO HUNDRED FORTY INSTALLMENTS OR ALL SUCH AS ARE PAYABLE AND APPLICABLE, THERE SHALL BE PAID TO THE ESTATE OF THE INSURED THE PRESENT VALUE OF THE MONTHLY INSTALLMENTS THEREAFTER PAYABLE, SAID VALUE TO BE COMPUTED AS OF DATE OF LAST PAYMENT MADE UNDER ANY EXISTING AWARD: * * *

YOU STATE THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF JAMES DAVIS AS FOLLOWS:

JAMES DAVIS WHILE IN SERVICE APPLIED FOR $10,000 INSURANCE IN FAVOR OF HIS FATHER, WILLIAM DAVIS. THE INSURED DIED ON JULY 24, 1918. UPON PROOF OF RELATIONSHIP AN AWARD OF INSURANCE WAS APPROVED AND PAID IN FAVOR OF THE DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY, WILLIAM DAVIS. THE BENEFICIARY DIED MAY 23, 1925, BEFORE ALL OF THE TWO HUNDRED FORTY MONTHLY INSTALLMENTS OF INSURANCE HAD BEEN PAID.

SECTION 303 OF THE WORLD WAR VETERANS' ACT AS NOW AMENDED REQUIRES THE "PRESENT VALUE OF THE REMAINING UNPAID MONTHLY INSTALLMENTS," NOT PAYABLE TO THE FATHER OF THE INSURED, TO BE PAID TO THE ESTATE OF THE INSURED, JAMES DAVIS, WHO HAS BEEN DEAD FOR MORE THAN FOUR YEARS. YOU QUOTE THE FOLLOWING PROVISIONS FROM THE TEXAS CODE, ARTICLE 3247, CHAPTER IV, TITLE 52, PAGE 687, OF THE REVISED CIVIL STATUTES OF TEXAS, 1911:

ALL APPLICATIONS FOR THE GRANT OF LETTERS TESTAMENTARY OR OF ADMINISTRATION UPON AN ESTATE MUST BE FILED WITHIN FOUR YEARS AFTER THE DEATH OF THE TESTATOR OR INTESTATE; AND IF FOUR YEARS HAVE ELAPSED BETWEEN THE DEATH OF SUCH TESTATOR OR INTESTATE AND THE FILING OF SUCH PETITION SUCH APPLICATION SHALL BE REFUSED AND DISMISSED.

THE ATTENTION OF THIS OFFICE HAS BEEN DIRECTED TO THE CASE OF NELSON V. BRIDGES, 98 TEXAS SUPREME COURT REPORTS, PAGE 523, IN WHICH IT WOULD APPEAR THAT THE COURT RECOGNIZED AN ADMINISTRATOR APPOINTED MORE THAN FOUR YEARS SUBSEQUENT TO THE DEATH OF THE INTESTATE. AND I AM ADVISED THAT A COURT OF COMPETENT JURISDICTION IN THE STATE OF TEXAS HAS ACTUALLY APPOINTED AN ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF JAMES DAVIS FOR THE PURPOSE OF COMPLYING WITH THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 303 OF THE WORLD WAR VETERANS' ACT. IF YOU FIND THIS TO BE THE SITUATION, THE LEGALITY OF THE LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION NEED NOT BE QUESTIONED MERELY ON THE LENGTH OF TIME SINCE THE DEATH OF THE INSURED, AND PAYMENT TO SUCH ADMINISTRATOR, IN THE ABSENCE OF OTHER OBJECTION, WILL CONSTITUTE A PROPER ACQUITTANCE TO THE GOVERNMENT.

WHEN ADMINISTRATION IS REFUSED UNDER THE QUOTED PROVISION OF THE STATE STATUTE, THE DUTY NONE THE LESS IS UPON THE GOVERNMENT TO PROPERLY DISPOSE OF THE PROCEEDS OF THE INSURANCE POLICY, SO THAT THE PARTIES ENTITLED MAY ACTUALLY RECEIVE THE SAME AND THE GOVERNMENT RECEIVE A LAWFUL ACQUITTANCE. WHILE THE ACCOUNTING OFFICERS OF THE GOVERNMENT, IN THE ABSENCE OF EXPRESS AUTHORITY OF LAW, HAVE CONSISTENTLY REFUSED TO AUTHORIZE PAYMENT TO INDIVIDUAL HEIRS OF AN AMOUNT DUE FROM THE GOVERNMENT TO A DECEDENT IN EXCESS OF $300 OR $500, I AM CONSTRAINED TO HOLD THAT FOR THE PRESENT AND UNTIL FURTHER LEGISLATION IN THE MATTER MAY BE OBTAINED, THE VETERANS' BUREAU MAY PROPERLY CONSIDER ALL FACTS AND ASCERTAIN AND DETERMINE THEREFROM THE HEIRS ENTITLED TO THE ESTATE OF AN INSURED WHOSE DOMICILE AT DEATH WAS IN A STATE THE LAWS OF WHICH PRECLUDE THE GRANTING OF LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION AND THE AMOUNT DUE UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 303 OF THE WORLD WAR VETERANS' ACT TO SUCH INDIVIDUAL HEIRS. WHERE CONFLICTING INTERESTS APPEAR OR FROM THE FACTS KNOWN WOULD SEEM REASONABLY LIKELY, PAYMENT OF THE AMOUNT DUE UNDER THE POLICY SHOULD BE MADE ONLY ON THE BASIS OF A DECREE OF COURT TO DETERMINE THE PERSON OR PERSONS ENTITLED TO THE PROCEEDS OF THE ESTATE OF THE INSURED. SEE SECTION 19 OF THE WORLD WAR VETERANS' ACT.

SUCH A DETERMINATION AS HERE CONTEMPLATED BY AN ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER OF THE UNITED STATES IS SO CONTRARY TO THE USUAL PROCEDURE IN SUCH MATTERS AND SO SUSCEPTIBLE OF ERROR IN THE ABSENCE OF COURT ACTION THAT THE UTMOST CARE SHOULD BE EXERCISED AND THE CLOSEST SAFEGUARDS ADOPTED TO INSURE ACCURATE DETERMINATION OF PARTIES ENTITLED TO TAKE UNDER THE ESTATE OF THE INSURED, IN ORDER THAT ANY PAYMENT MADE BY THE GOVERNMENT PURSUANT THERETO WILL CONSTITUTE A COMPLETE ACQUITTANCE. IF THE RESULT OF SUCH CONSIDERATION IN ANY CASE DISCLOSES ANY DOUBT WHATEVER, THE RECORD, WITH THE ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION THEREON, SHOULD BE SUBMITTED TO THIS OFFICE FOR CONSIDERATION AND A DECISION IN ADVANCE OF PAYMENT BY A DISBURSING OFFICER.