A-40746, FEBRUARY 19, 1932, 11 COMP. GEN. 316

A-40746: Feb 19, 1932

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THERE IS NO AUTHORITY TO PAY TO HIM AMOUNTS DUE THE ESTATE BY THE GOVERNMENT UNTIL THE HEIRS HAVE BEEN DETERMINED IN ACCORDANCE WITH LAW OR A LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE HAS BEEN APPOINTED TO TAKE CARE OF THE ASSETS OF THE ESTATE. THE ACCOUNT IS STILL DUE HIS ESTATE. WHICH INDEBTEDNESS ALSO IS UNPAID. THIS INDIAN WAS A WARD OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT. HIS HEIRS HAVE NOT YET BEEN DETERMINED. THE QUESTION THAT NOW PRESENTS ITSELF IS HOW AND TO WHOM THIS INDEBTEDNESS CAN BE PAID. UNDER PRESENT REQUIREMENTS OF THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE THE PAYMENT WOULD HAVE TO BE DEFERRED UNTIL THE HEIRS ARE DETERMINED AND THEN MADE UPON THEIR PERSONAL APPLICATIONS OR. IT IS THE THOUGHT OF THIS DEPARTMENT THAT IN THE INSTANT CASE.

A-40746, FEBRUARY 19, 1932, 11 COMP. GEN. 316

ESTATES OF DECEDENTS - INDIANS - WARDS OF THE GOVERNMENT IN CASES OF DECEASED INDIANS, WARDS OF THE GOVERNMENT, WHILE THE SUPERINTENDENT OF THE INDIAN AGENCY WHERE THE INDIAN DIED MAY BE CONSIDERED AS EX-OFFICIO ADMINISTRATOR FOR THE PURPOSE OF COLLECTING ASSETS OF THE ESTATE FROM THIRD PARTIES, THERE IS NO AUTHORITY TO PAY TO HIM AMOUNTS DUE THE ESTATE BY THE GOVERNMENT UNTIL THE HEIRS HAVE BEEN DETERMINED IN ACCORDANCE WITH LAW OR A LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE HAS BEEN APPOINTED TO TAKE CARE OF THE ASSETS OF THE ESTATE, ETC.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL TO THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR, FEBRUARY 19, 1932:

THERE HAS BEEN RECEIVED YOUR LETTER OF FEBRUARY 4, 1932, AS FOLLOWS:

IN JANUARY AND FEBRUARY, 1931, THE SUPERINTENDENT OF THE INDIAN SCHOOL AT SANTE FE, NEW MEXICO, PURCHASED MUTTON FOR SUBSISTENCE OF SCHOOL PUPILS AT A COST OF $81.60 FROM EUFRACIO TRUJILLO, A NAMBE PUEBLO INDIAN, WHO DIED WITHOUT RECEIVING PAYMENT OF THE INDEBTEDNESS, AND THE ACCOUNT IS STILL DUE HIS ESTATE. IN NOVEMBER 1931, AND JANUARY, 1932, SUBSEQUENT TO THE DEATH OF EUFRACIO TRUJILLO, THE SUPERINTENDENT PURCHASED ADDITIONAL MUTTON FROM THE INDIAN'S ESTATE AT A COST OF $108.90, WHICH INDEBTEDNESS ALSO IS UNPAID. THIS INDIAN WAS A WARD OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT, AND HIS HEIRS HAVE NOT YET BEEN DETERMINED.

THE QUESTION THAT NOW PRESENTS ITSELF IS HOW AND TO WHOM THIS INDEBTEDNESS CAN BE PAID. UNDER PRESENT REQUIREMENTS OF THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE THE PAYMENT WOULD HAVE TO BE DEFERRED UNTIL THE HEIRS ARE DETERMINED AND THEN MADE UPON THEIR PERSONAL APPLICATIONS OR, IF MINORS, UPON THE APPLICATIONS OF THEIR RECOGNIZED REPRESENTATIVES. IT IS THE THOUGHT OF THIS DEPARTMENT THAT IN THE INSTANT CASE, AND IN ALL OTHER CASES WHERE THE UNITED STATES IS INDEBTED TO THE ESTATES OF DECEASED WARD INDIANS, IT WOULD BE ADVANTAGEOUS TO THE HEIRS, AS WELL AS FOR THE SERVICE GENERALLY, TO PAY THE MONEY OVER TO THE SUPERINTENDENT HAVING JURISDICTION OF THE AGENCY WITH WHICH THE DECEASED WAS AFFILIATED, IN HIS CAPACITY OF EX-OFFICIO ADMINISTRATOR, SUCH SUPERINTENDENT TO TAKE THE MONEY INTO HIS OFFICIAL ACCOUNT AND CREDIT IT TO THE INDIVIDUAL INDIAN MONEY ACCOUNT OF THE ESTATE, AFTER WHICH IT WILL BE AVAILABLE UNDER REGULATIONS OF THE INDIAN OFFICE FOR PAYMENT OF ANY JUST DEBTS AGAINST THE ESTATE, AND DISTRIBUTION TO THE HEIRS WHEN THEY ARE DETERMINED. SUCH A PROCEDURE WOULD NOT ONLY EXPEDITE PAYMENT OF THE GOVERNMENT INDEBTEDNESS WHICH, UNDER PRESENT PRACTICE, IS SOMETIMES DELAYED FOR SEVERAL YEARS BECAUSE OF DIFFICULTIES IN THE WAY OF DETERMINING HEIRS, BUT IT WOULD ALSO MAKE POSSIBLE THE PROMPT SETTLEMENT OF DEBTS OF THE ESTATES AND THE DEPOSIT OF MONEY IN BONDED BANKS AT INTEREST FOR DISTRIBUTION TO THE HEIRS WHEN DETERMINED. IT IS UNDERSTOOD, OF COURSE, THAT SUPERINTENDENTS, OR THEIR SPECIAL DISBURSING AGENTS, ARE RESPONSIBLE UNDER THEIR BONDS FOR ALL SUCH FUNDS WHICH COME INTO THEIR HANDS, AND THEIR ACCOUNTS ARE AUDITED BY THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE.

ALL MONEYS BELONGING AND ACCRUING TO ESTATES OF DECEASED WARD INDIANS ARE NOW HANDLED AS ABOVE DESCRIBED, EXCEPT THOSE THAT ARE DUE AND PAYABLE BY THE UNITED STATES, AND THERE IS NO ADMINISTRATIVE REASON WHY SUCH AN EXCEPTION SHOULD BE MADE. IF THERE IS NO LEGAL OBSTACLE TO THE PROPOSED PROCEDURE THE DEPARTMENT WOULD BE PLEASED TO RECEIVE FROM YOU A DECISION WHICH WILL APPROVE AND AUTHORIZE ITS GENERAL APPLICATION TO THE INDIAN SERVICE.

THE PROCEDURE AS PROPOSED IN YOUR LETTER WOULD AUTHORIZE THE WITHDRAWING OF FUNDS FROM THE TREASURY AND THE PAYING OF THE SAME TO THE SUPERINTENDENTS OF VARIOUS INDIAN AGENCIES, SUCH FUNDS TO BE KEPT BY THEM IN BANKS FOR THE PURPOSE OF PAYING THE PROPER DEBTS OF DECEASED INDIANS OR TO BE TURNED OVER TO THE HEIRS, NEXT OF KIN, OR DISTRIBUTEES UNDER THE ESTATE WHEN SUCH HEIRS, ETC., SHALL HAVE BEEN DETERMINED.

PAYMENTS FROM PUBLIC FUNDS ARE AUTHORIZED ONLY TO THE PUBLIC CREDITORS. SEE IN THIS CONNECTION SECTION 3620, REVISED STATUTES, AS AMENDED, RELATING IN PARTICULAR TO PAYMENTS TO BE MADE BY DISBURSING OFFICERS.

IN THE CASES REFERRED TO IN YOUR LETTER, SINCE THE HEIRS HAVE NOT BEEN DETERMINED AND NO LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE HAS BEEN APPOINTED TO CARE FOR THE ASSETS OF THE ESTATE, NO REASON APPEARS WHY THE FUNDS SHOULD NOT REMAIN IN THE TREASURY UNTIL THAT HAS BEEN DONE. IT MAY BE, AS YOU STATE, THAT THE SUPERINTENDENTS OF THE VARIOUS INDIAN AGENCIES ARE CONSIDERED AS EX- OFFICIO ADMINISTRATORS OF THE ESTATES OF DECEASED INDIANS, WARDS OF THE GOVERNMENT, UNDER THEIR JURISDICTION, AND THAT THEY ARE REQUIRED UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THE ACT OF JULY 1, 1898, 30 STAT. 595, TO ACCOUNT FOR ALL FUNDS COMING INTO THEIR POSSESSION AS CUSTODIANS. HOWEVER, SUCH CONSIDERATIONS ARE NOT SUFFICIENT JUSTIFICATION FOR THE ADOPTION OF A PROCEDURE SUCH AS PROPOSED IN YOUR LETTER. IN THE COLLECTION OF FUNDS DUE THE ESTATES FROM THIRD PARTIES, AS STATED IN YOUR LETTER, THE SUPERINTENDENT AS EX-OFFICIO ADMINISTRATOR ACTS AS AN AGENT OF THE GOVERNMENT AND BY REASON OF HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SUCH. THE UNITED STATES IS TRUSTEE OF THE FUNDS FOR THE ESTATE OF THE DECEASED INDIAN WARD, AND THE SUPERINTENDENT ACTS AS A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE GOVERNMENT IN THE PROTECTION OF THE ASSETS OF THE ESTATE. AS TO FUNDS DUE FROM THE UNITED STATES IS TRUSTEE OF THE FUNDS FOR THE ESTATE OF THE DECEASED INDIAN WARD, PRINCIPAL CUSTODIAN, THERE WOULD BE NOTHING ACCOMPLISHED BY RELINQUISHING SUCH POSSESSION AND PLACING THE FUNDS IN THE HANDS OF THE AGENT, PARTICULARLY SINCE THERE MAY BE THE DANGER THAT THE ASSETS OF THE ESTATE AND THE INTEREST OF THE GOVERNMENT MAY BE JEOPARDIZED THEREBY.

ACCORDINGLY, IN SPECIFIC ANSWER TO THE QUESTION SUBMITTED BY YOU, I HAVE TO ADVISE THAT, IN THE CASES SUCH AS REFERRED TO IN YOUR LETTER, THERE SHOULD BE FOLLOWED THE ESTABLISHED PROCEDURE OF DEFERRING PAYMENT OF AMOUNTS DUE FROM THE UNITED STATES TO ESTATES OF DECEASED INDIANS, WARDS OF THE GOVERNMENT, UNTIL THE HEIRS, ETC., ARE DETERMINED, AND CLAIMS ARE PRESENTED BY THEM OR ON THEIR BEHALF, SAID PROCEDURE APPEARING TO BE THE ONLY ONE AUTHORIZED BY LAW IN SUCH CASES.