B-151378, JULY 12, 1963, 43 COMP. GEN. 52

B-151378: Jul 12, 1963

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PROPERTY - PRIVATE - CITIZENS DYING ABROAD - DISPOSITION A PROPOSED DISPOSITION OF THE UNIDENTIFIED EFFECTS (UNITED STATES AND FOREIGN CURRENCIES) OF A GROUP OF AMERICAN CITIZENS WHO DIED IN AN AIRPLANE ACCIDENT OVERSEAS TO TWO CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS BECAUSE THE NEXT OF KIN WERE UNABLE TO AGREE ON THE DISPOSITION OF THE EFFECTS MAY NOT BE APPROVED UNDER 22 U.S.C. 1175 WHICH SPECIFIES THAT. HE IS REQUIRED TO TRANSFER THE EFFECTS TO THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE FOR THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL TO HOLD THE PROPERTY IN TRUST FOR THE LEGAL CLAIMANTS AND. IF THE PARTIES IN INTEREST DO NOT RESOLVE THEIR DIFFERENCES AFTER 6 YEARS THE PROPERTY IS REQUIRED TO BE TURNED OVER TO THE STATE OF THE LAST DOMICILE OF THE DECEASED CITIZENS.

B-151378, JULY 12, 1963, 43 COMP. GEN. 52

PROPERTY - PRIVATE - CITIZENS DYING ABROAD - DISPOSITION A PROPOSED DISPOSITION OF THE UNIDENTIFIED EFFECTS (UNITED STATES AND FOREIGN CURRENCIES) OF A GROUP OF AMERICAN CITIZENS WHO DIED IN AN AIRPLANE ACCIDENT OVERSEAS TO TWO CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS BECAUSE THE NEXT OF KIN WERE UNABLE TO AGREE ON THE DISPOSITION OF THE EFFECTS MAY NOT BE APPROVED UNDER 22 U.S.C. 1175 WHICH SPECIFIES THAT, IF A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE STATE DEPARTMENT CANNOT DISPOSE OF THE EFFECTS WITHIN 1 YEAR FROM THE DATE OF DEATH ACCORDING TO THE LAW OF THE DECEDENT'S DOMICILE, HE IS REQUIRED TO TRANSFER THE EFFECTS TO THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE FOR THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL TO HOLD THE PROPERTY IN TRUST FOR THE LEGAL CLAIMANTS AND, IF THE PARTIES IN INTEREST DO NOT RESOLVE THEIR DIFFERENCES AFTER 6 YEARS THE PROPERTY IS REQUIRED TO BE TURNED OVER TO THE STATE OF THE LAST DOMICILE OF THE DECEASED CITIZENS.

TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE, JULY 12, 1963:

THIS IS IN RESPONSE TO A LETTER DATED APRIL 24, 1963, WITH ENCLOSURES, FROM THE HONORABLE WILLIAM J. CROCKETT, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR ADMINISTRATION, DEPARTMENT OF STATE. THE LETTER OF THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY SUBMITTED FOR OUR CONSIDERATION A PROPOSED DISPOSITION OF "UNIDENTIFIED EFFECTS," UNITED STATES AND FOREIGN CURRENCIES VALUED AT $631.47, WHICH HAD BEEN TURNED OVER TO THE AMERICAN EMBASSY AT PARIS BY THE FRENCH AUTHORITIES. THE MONIES WERE RELEASED TO THE AMERICAN EMBASSY AS BELONGING TO, ALTHOUGH INDIVIDUAL OWNERSHIP COULD NOT BE ESTABLISHED, THE ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY PASSENGERS WHO PERISHED IN AN AIRPLANE CRASH NEAR PARIS ON JUNE 3, 1962. THE VICTIMS WERE AMERICANS, MAINLY FROM ATLANTA, GEORGIA.

AMONG THE ENCLOSURES WITH THE LETTER OF THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY IS A COPY OF A LETTER DATED OCTOBER 8, 1962, FROM THE MAYOR OF ATLANTA TO THE AMERICAN CONSUL GENERAL AT PARIS. IT APPEARS THE MAYOR, PURSUANT TO CORRESPONDENCE WITH THE CONSUL GENERAL, CONTACTED THE NEXT OF KIN OF THE CRASH VICTIMS AS TO THE DISPOSITION OF THE "UNIDENTIFIED EFFECTS.' ALL BUT FOUR AGREED TO TURNING THE MONIES OVER TO THE ART ASSOCIATION MEMORIAL FUND. OF THE FOUR EXPRESSING DIVERGENT VIEWS, THREE WISHED THE RECIPIENT TO BE THE CHILDRENS MEDICAL RESEARCH MEMORIAL, THE FOURTH PREFERRED PUTTING THE MONIES INTO THE UNITED STATES TREASURY. THE ART ASSOCIATION MEMORIAL FUND AND THE CHILDRENS MEDICAL RESEARCH MEMORIAL ARE UNDERSTOOD TO BE CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS IN THE CITY OF ATLANTA.

UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES, AND APPARENTLY AS A PRACTICAL SOLUTION TO THE DILEMMA PRESENTED BY MONIES WHOSE INDIVIDUAL OWNERSHIP CANNOT BE ASCERTAINED, THE EMBASSY AT PARIS "PROPOSES THAT THE UNIDENTIFIED MONEY, $631.47, BE DIVIDED INTO TWO PARTS, $50 TO BE DONATED TO THE CHILDRENS MEDICAL RESEARCH MEMORIAL, AND THE REMAINDER, $581.47, TO BE GIVEN TO THE ART ASSOCIATION MEMORIAL FUND, WHICH ARE THE TWO CHARITIES SUGGESTED AS BENEFICIARIES.'

ESSENTIALLY THE LETTER OF THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY PRESENTS THE QUESTION OF WHETHER THE EMBASSY'S PROPOSAL IS AUTHORIZED, AND, IF NOT WHAT CONDITIONS WOULD HAVE TO BE MET BEFORE IT COULD BE AUTHORIZED.

SECTION 1175, TITLE 22 OF THE U.S.C.IMPOSES UPON A CONSULAR OFFICER OR, IN HIS ABSENCE, A DIPLOMATIC OFFICER THE DUTY, UNDER SUCH PROCEDURAL REGULATIONS AS THE SECRETARY OF STATE MAY PRESCRIBE, "TO TAKE POSSESSION AND TO DISPOSE OF THE PERSONAL ESTATE LEFT BY ANY CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES * * * WHO SHALL DIE * * * WITHIN HIS JURISDICTION * * *.' THE CONSULAR OFFICER "SHALL ACT AS THE PROVISIONAL CONSERVATOR OF THE PERSONAL PROPERTY WITHIN HIS JURISDICTION OF A DECEASED CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES * * *. HE SHALL RENDER ASSISTANCE IN GUARDING, COLLECTING, AND TRANSMITTING THE PROPERTY TO THE UNITED STATES TO BE DISPOSED OF ACCORDING TO THE LAW OF THE DECEDENT'S DOMICILE.' IF AFTER EXPIRATION OF 1 YEAR FROM THE DATE OF DEATH, THE CONSULAR OFFICER CANNOT MAKE PROPER DISPOSITION OF THE PROPERTY, HE IS REQUIRED UNDER THE SECTION, AS IMPLEMENTED BY THE REGULATIONS OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE (7 FOREIGN AFFAIRS MANUAL 446), TO TRANSMIT THE PERSONAL ESTATE TO THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE,"THERE TO BE HELD IN TRUST FOR THE LEGAL CLAIMANT.' THE SECTION FURTHER PROVIDES THAT "THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES * * * SHALL ACT AS CONSERVATOR OF SUCH PARTS OF THESE ESTATES AS MAY BE RECEIVED BY THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE * * *; " AND,"IF NO CLAIM TO THE EFFECTS * * * SHALL HAVE BEEN RECEIVED FROM A LEGAL CLAIMANT OF THE DECEASED WITHIN SIX YEARS FROM THE DATE OF THE RECEIPT OF THE EFFECTS BY THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE, THE FUNDS SO DEPOSITED, WITH ANY REMAINING UNSOLD EFFECTS * * * SHALL BE TRANSMITTED BY THAT OFFICE TO THE PROPER OFFICER OF THE STATE OR TERRITORY OF THE LAST DOMICILE IN THE UNITED STATES OF THE DECEASED CITIZEN * * *.'

NOTWITHSTANDING THE PRACTICAL AND ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS GIVING RISE TO THE EMBASSY'S PROPOSED DISTRIBUTION, WE CANNOT VIEW THE CONTEMPLATED ACTION AS A PROPER EXTENSION OF THE DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES IMPOSED BY SECTION 1175, BOTH UPON THE FOREIGN SERVICE AND OUR OFFICE. IN THE ABSENCE OF UNANIMOUS CONCURRENCE BY THE VARIOUS POTENTIAL LEGAL CLAIMANTS, EFFECTUATION OF THE PROPOSED DISTRIBUTION WOULD NOT BE AUTHORIZED. RATHER, UNDER THE SECTION AND THE APPLICABLE REGULATIONS, THE MONIES INVOLVED SHOULD NOW BE TRANSMITTED TO OUR OFFICE,"TO BE HELD IN TRUST FOR THE LEGAL CLAIMANT," AND ULTIMATELY DISTRIBUTED, IF THE PARTIES IN INTEREST DO NOT RESOLVE THEIR DIFFERENCES, TO THE STATE "OF THE LAST DOMICILE IN THE UNITED STATES OF THE DECEASED CITIZEN," APPARENTLY HEREIN THE STATE OF GEORGIA.