B-151206, APRIL 22, 1963, 42 COMP. GEN. 587

B-151206: Apr 22, 1963

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POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT - POSTAL SAVINGS CERTIFICATES - GIFTS ALTHOUGH WHEN CONFLICTING CLAIMS ARE MADE FOR POSTAL SAVINGS CERTIFICATES OF A DEPOSITOR WHO DIED INTESTATE. THE DETERMINATION WHETHER A GIFT HAD BEEN MADE IS NOT PERMITTED UNDER A POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT RULING. BY REGULATIONS THAT THE CERTIFICATES ARE NONTRANSFERABLE AND NONNEGOTIABLE. THE COURTS HAVING HELD THAT POSTAL SAVINGS CERTIFICATES ARE PROPER SUBJECTS OF GIFTS. 1963: WE HAVE YOUR LETTER OF APRIL 1. SO FAR AS IS KNOWN. HIS BURIAL EXPENSES WERE PAID BY AN INSURANCE POLICY. SO FAR AS IS KNOWN. HE HAD NO CREDITORS AND NO ADMINISTRATION HAS TAKEN PLACE AND NONE IS CONTEMPLATED. CHAFFIOTTE WERE LONG-TIME FRIENDS. WHO IS NOT RELATED TO MRS.

B-151206, APRIL 22, 1963, 42 COMP. GEN. 587

POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT - POSTAL SAVINGS CERTIFICATES - GIFTS ALTHOUGH WHEN CONFLICTING CLAIMS ARE MADE FOR POSTAL SAVINGS CERTIFICATES OF A DEPOSITOR WHO DIED INTESTATE, THE DETERMINATION WHETHER A GIFT HAD BEEN MADE IS NOT PERMITTED UNDER A POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT RULING, WHICH REQUIRES THE DETERMINATION TO BE MADE BY A PROPER COURT HAVING JURISDICTION OVER THE CLAIMANTS, AND BY REGULATIONS THAT THE CERTIFICATES ARE NONTRANSFERABLE AND NONNEGOTIABLE, THEREBY INSURING A VALID ACQUITTANCE TO THE UNITED STATES, THE VALUE OF THE POSTAL SAVINGS CERTIFICATES HELD BY A DEPOSITOR WHO DIED INTESTATE, LEAVING NO RELATIVES, OTHER ESTATE, OR UNPAID EXPENSES MAY BE PAID ADMINISTRATIVELY TO THE DONEE DESIGNATED BY THE DECEDENT UPON THE FURNISHING BY THE DONEE OF AN APPROPRIATE INDEMNITY BOND, AS SUGGESTED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, THE COURTS HAVING HELD THAT POSTAL SAVINGS CERTIFICATES ARE PROPER SUBJECTS OF GIFTS, THE NONTRANSFERABLE AND NONNEGOTIABLE PROVISIONS INVOLVED NOT VOIDING A VALID GIFT, AND IN THE ABSENCE OF CONFLICTING CLAIMS FOR THE VALUE OF THE CERTIFICATES.

TO THE POSTMASTER GENERAL, APRIL 22, 1963:

WE HAVE YOUR LETTER OF APRIL 1, 1963, WHEREIN YOU REQUEST OUR ADVICE CONCERNING THE PAYMENT OF CERTAIN POSTAL SAVINGS CERTIFICATES.

YOU REPORT THAT MR. ERNEST C. CHAMBERS HAD ON DEPOSIT WITH THE POSTMASTER, WASHINGTON, D.C., 22 POSTAL SAVINGS CERTIFICATES WITH A TOTAL VALUE OF $1,180. MR. CHAMBERS DIED INTESTATE AT THE D.C. GENERAL HOSPITAL ON MARCH 25, 1960. SO FAR AS IS KNOWN, MR. CHAMBERS HAD NO RELATIVES AND LEFT NO ESTATE OTHER THAN THE POSTAL SAVINGS CERTIFICATES. HIS BURIAL EXPENSES WERE PAID BY AN INSURANCE POLICY. SO FAR AS IS KNOWN, HE HAD NO CREDITORS AND NO ADMINISTRATION HAS TAKEN PLACE AND NONE IS CONTEMPLATED.

YOU FURTHER REPORT THAT MRS. OREN RAMBLER AND MR. MARCEL E. CHAFFIOTTE WERE LONG-TIME FRIENDS. MR. CHAFFIOTTE, WHO IS NOT RELATED TO MRS. RAMBLER AND HAS NO FINANCIAL INTEREST IN THE ACCOUNT, FURNISHED AN AFFIDAVIT WHICH STATES THAT ON MARCH 22, 1960, MR. CHAMBERS PLACED HIS FINGERPRINTS ON THE BACK OF EACH CERTIFICATE BY THE USE OF LIPSTICK WHICH HE BORROWED FROM HIS NURSE. AT THAT TIME, MR. CHAMBERS' HANDS WERE SO SHAKY THAT HE COULD NOT WRITE. MR. CHAFFIOTTE FURTHER STATED THAT ON MARCH 24, 1960, MR. CHAMBERS SENT FOR MRS. RAMBLER, AND IN THE PRESENCE OF MR. CHAFFOITTE GAVE MRS. RAMBLER THE CERTIFICATES, STATING THAT HE WAS DOING SO IN APPRECIATION OF HER MANY KINDNESSES AND SERVICES TO HIM. THE PURPOSE OF MR. CHAFFOITTE'S AFFIDAVIT IS TO ESTABLISH THAT MR. CHAMBERS MADE A GIFT OF THE CERTIFICATES TO MRS. RAMBLER.

UPON THE APPLICATION BY MRS. RAMBLER FOR THE PAYMENT OF THIS ACCOUNT YOUR DEPARTMENT DENIED THE CLAIM RELYING UPON THE LONG-STANDING RULE ENUNCIATED BY FORMER SOLICITORS FOR THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT THAT THE DEPARTMENT SHOULD NOT ATTEMPT ADMINISTRATIVELY TO DETERMINE WHETHER A GIFT HAD BEEN MADE. THE VIEW WAS EXPRESSED UNDER THIS RULE THAT SUCH A DETERMINATION SHOULD BE MADE ONLY BY A PROPER COURT WHICH HAD JURISDICTION OVER THE CLAIMANTS. 6 OPS.SOL. P.O.D. 26. YOU ALSO CITE 6 ID. 93; 6 ID. 801; 7 ID. 378; AND 9 ID. NO. 399. DENIAL OF THE CLAIM ALSO WAS PREMISED UPON THE REGULATIONS OF THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT APPEARING IN 39 CFR 63.4 (D) (1) AND CONDITIONS SET FORTH ON THE CERTIFICATES WHICH STATE THAT POSTAL SAVINGS CERTIFICATES ARE NONTRANSFERABLE AND NONNEGOTIABLE.

MRS. RAMBLER THEREAFTER FILED SUIT AGAINST THE POSTMASTER AND THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE MOVED TO DISMISS THE SUIT ON THE GROUND THAT THE SUIT WAS AN UNCONSENTED SUIT AGAINST THE UNITED STATES CITING THE CASE OF ARMSTRONG V. UNITED STATES, 283 F.2D 122 (1960). YOU REPORT THAT IT WAS SUGGESTED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE THAT YOUR DEPARTMENT PAY MRS. RAMBLER'S CLAIM ADMINISTRATIVELY IF THE PLAINTIFF IS AGREEABLE TO FURNISHING AN APPROPRIATE INDEMNITY BOND TO SAFEGUARD THE GOVERNMENT AGAINST ANY OTHER CLAIMS WHICH MAY LATER ARISE. THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE REPORTEDLY BELIEVES THAT THE GOVERNMENT'S INTERESTS WOULD BE BETTER PROTECTED BY THE INDEMNITY BOND THAN BY A COURT JUDGMENT.

YOU STATE THAT YOU KNOW OF NOTHING WHICH WOULD EXPRESSLY PERMIT YOUR DEPARTMENT TO MAKE THE ADMINISTRATIVE DETERMINATION OF A GIFT BUT THE SUGGESTION WAS MADE THAT AUTHORITY FOR SUCH ACTION COULD BE DERIVED FROM SECTIONS 5204 AND 5208 OF TITLE 39, U.S.C. YOU REQUEST ADVICE AS TO WHETHER THIS OFFICE WOULD BE REQUIRED TO OBJECT TO A PAYMENT MADE TO MRS. RAMBLER AFTER ADMINISTRATIVELY DETERMINING THAT A GIFT HAD BEEN MADE AND CONDITIONED UPON HER FURNISHING AN APPROPRIATE INDEMNITY BOND.

AS YOU HAVE POINTED OUT IN YOUR LETTER THE COURTS HAVE HELD POSTAL SAVINGS CERTIFICATES TO BE THE PROPER SUBJECT OF GIFTS. YOU CITE THE CASES OF IN RE DISKIN'S ESTATE, 161 A. 893 AND IN RE VANICEK'S ESTATE, 17 N.W.2D 477. WHILE THESE CASES INVOLVED GIFTS INTER VIVOS THE SAME RULING HAS BEEN MADE WITH RESPECT TO GIFTS CAUSA MORTIS. SEE WILLIAMS V. LETTON, 15 S.W.2D 69. IN ADDITION TO THE HOLDING THAT THE POSTAL SAVINGS CERTIFICATES WERE THE SUBJECT OF GIFTS THE COURTS HAVE REVIEWED THE NONTRANSFERABLE AND NONNEGOTIABLE PROVISIONS CONTAINED IN THE POSTAL REGULATIONS AND ON THE CERTIFICATES AND HAVE HELD SUCH PROVISIONS AS NOT VOIDING AN OTHERWISE VALID GIFT. SEE IN RE VANICEK'S ESTATE AND DIETZEN V. AMERICAN TRUST AND BANKING CO., SUPRA. SEE, ALSO MARSHALL V. FELKER, 23 SO.2D 555, AND IN RE SIBERT'S ESTATE, 101 N.E.2D 153.

HAVING THUS FOUND THAT NO LEGAL BARRIERS EXIST AS TO THE RIGHT OF THE HOLDER OF POSTAL SAVINGS CERTIFICATES TO GIVE SUCH CERTIFICATES TO OTHERS WE COME NOW TO THE DISCUSSION OF THE RESTRICTIONS IMPOSED ON YOUR DEPARTMENT BY THE OPINIONS OF THE SOLICITOR OF THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT CITED BY YOU WITH RESPECT TO THE RIGHT TO DETERMINE ADMINISTRATIVELY WHETHER A VALID GIFT HAD BEEN CONSUMMATED. WE NOTE THAT THE BASIC RULE NOT TO ATTEMPT ADMINISTRATIVELY TO DETERMINE WHETHER A GIFT HAD BEEN MADE WAS SET FORTH IN THE EARLIEST OPINION (1914) IN VOLUME 6, PAGE 93, OF THE SOLICITOR'S OPINIONS. INVOLVED HERE WERE CONFLICTING CLAIMS, ONE UNDER AN ALLEGED GIFT CAUSA MORTIS, AND THE OTHER A TESTAMENTARY DISPOSITION TO THE SPOUSE OF THE DECEASED DONOR. THIS SITUATION OF CONFLICTING CLAIMS, IN VIEW OF THE PROVISIONS CONTAINED IN SECTION 17 OF THE ACT OF JUNE 25, 1910, 36 STAT. 819, 39 U.S.C. 767, 1958 ED., STATING THAT THE UNITED STATES SHALL RECEIVE A VALID ACQUITTANCE UPON THE PAYMENT OF THE VALUE OF POSTAL SAVINGS CERTIFICATES IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE FINAL DETERMINATION OF A COURT OF COMPETENT JURISDICTION OF THE RIGHTS OF CONFLICTING CLAIMANTS THERETO, PROPERLY REQUIRED THE RECOGNITION OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE LIMITATION TO MAKE A DETERMINATION OF A GIFT. WE AGREE THAT IN A SIMILAR SITUATION NOW WHERE THERE ARE CONFLICTING CLAIMS OR THE POSSIBILITY THAT CREDITORS OF THE DONOR EXIST, NO DETERMINATION SHOULD BE MADE ADMINISTRATIVELY AS TO WHETHER A VALID GIFT WAS MADE BUT THE DONEE CLAIMANT SHOULD BE REFERRED TO THE PROVISIONS NOW CONTAINED IN 39 U.S.C. 5222 REQUIRING A JUDICIAL DETERMINATION OF THE RIGHTS OF THE PARTIES TO THE PAYMENT OF THE SAVINGS CERTIFICATES.

IN THE INSTANT CASE, HOWEVER, YOU STATE THAT THE DECEDENT HAD NO RELATIVES, LEFT NO ESTATE OTHER THAN THE CERTIFICATES, HAD NO CREDITORS EVEN FOR BURIAL EXPENSES, THAT NO ADMINISTRATION OF THE ESTATE IS CONTEMPLATED, AND THAT THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE SUGGESTED THAT THE CLAIM BE PAID ADMINISTRATIVELY PROVIDED THAT AN APPROPRIATE INDEMNITY BOND IS FURNISHED.

IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES, WE WOULD HAVE NO OBJECTION TO THE PAYMENT TO MRS. RAMBLER UNDER THE CONDITIONS SUGGESTED IN YOUR LETTER.