This controversy concerns the right to $400,000, part of the corpus of a trust established in Delaware by a settlor who later became domiciled in Florida. One group of claimants, "legatees," urge that this property passed under the residuary clause of the settlor's will, which was admitted to probate in Florida. The Florida courts have sustained this position. 100 So.2d 378. Other claimants, "appointees" and "beneficiaries," contend that the property passed pursuant to the settlor's exercise of the inter vivos power of appointment created in the deed of trust. The Delaware courts adopted this position and refused to accord full faith and credit to the Florida determination because the Florida court had not acquired jurisdiction over an indispensable party, the Delaware trustee. ___ Del. ___, 128 A.2d 819. We postponed the question of jurisdiction in the Florida appeal, No. 107, 354 U.S. 919, and granted certiorari to the Delaware Supreme Court, No. 117, 354 U.S. 920.
The trust whose validity is contested here was created in 1935. Dora Browning Donner, then a domiciliary of Pennsylvania, executed a trust instrument in Delaware naming the Wilmington Trust Co., of Wilmington, Delaware, as trustee. The corpus was composed of securities. Mrs. Donner reserved the income for life, and stated that the remainder should be paid to such persons or upon such trusts as she should appoint by inter vivos or testamentary instrument. The trust agreement provided that Mrs. Donner could change the trustee, and that she could amend, alter or revoke the agreement at any time. A measure of control over trust administration was assured by the provision that only with the consent of a trust "advisor" appointed by the settlor could the trustee (1) sell trust assets, (2) make investments, and (3) participate in any plan, proceeding, reorganization or merger
The two trusts with the Delaware Trust Co. were created in 1948 by Mrs. Donner's daughter, Elizabeth Donner Hanson, for the benefit of Elizabeth's children, Donner Hanson and Joseph Donner Winsor. In identical terms they provide that the income not required for the beneficiary's support should be accumulated to age 25, when the beneficiary should be paid 1/4 of the corpus and receive the income from the balance for life. Upon the death of the beneficiary the remainder was to go to such of the beneficiary's issue or Elizabeth Donner Hanson's issue as the beneficiary should appoint by inter vivos or testamentary instrument; in default of appointment to the beneficiary's issue alive at the time of his death, and if none to the issue of Elizabeth Donner Hanson.
Mrs. Donner died Nov. 20, 1952. Her will, which was admitted to probate in Florida, named Elizabeth Donner
This controversy grows out of the residuary clause that created the last-mentioned trusts. It begins:
Residuary legatees Denckla and Stewart, already the recipients of over $500,000 each, urge that the power of appointment over the $400,000 appointed to sister Elizabeth's children was not "effectively exercised" and that the property should accordingly pass to them. Fourteen months after Mrs. Donner's death these parties petitioned a Florida chancery court for a declaratory judgment "concerning what property passes under the residuary clause" of the will. Personal service was had upon the following defendants: (1) executrix Elizabeth Donner Hanson, (2) beneficiaries Donner Hanson and Joseph Donner Winsor, and (3) potential beneficiary William Donner Roosevelt, also one of Elizabeth's children. Curtin Winsor, Jr., another of Elizabeth's children and
The appearing defendants (Elizabeth Donner Hanson and her children) moved to dismiss the suit because the exercise of jurisdiction over indispensable parties, the Delaware trustees, would offend Section 1 of the
After the Florida litigation began, but before entry of the decree, the executrix instituted a declaratory judgment action in Delaware to determine who was entitled to participate in the trust assets held in that State. Except for the addition of beneficiary Winsor and several appointees, the parties were substantially the same as in the Florida litigation. Nonresident defendants were notified by registered mail. All of the trust companies, beneficiaries, and legatees except Katherine N. R. Denckla, appeared and participated in the litigation. After the Florida court enjoined executrix Hanson from further participation, her children pursued their own interests. When the Florida decree was entered the legatees unsuccessfully urged it as res judicata of the Delaware dispute. In a decree dated Jan. 13, 1956, the Delaware Chancellor ruled that the trust and power of appointment were valid under the applicable Delaware law, and that the trust corpus had properly been paid to the Delaware Trust Co. and the other appointees. ___ Del. Ch. ___, 119 A.2d 901.
Alleging that she would be bound, by the Delaware decree, the executrix moved the Florida Supreme Court to remand with instructions to dismiss the Florida suit then pending on appeal. No full faith and credit question was raised. The motion was denied. The Florida Supreme Court affirmed its Chancellor's conclusion that Florida law applied to determine the validity of the trust
The full faith and credit question was first raised in the Delaware litigation by an unsuccessful motion for new trial filed with the Chancellor Jan. 20, 1956. After the Florida Supreme Court decision the matter was renewed by a motion to remand filed with the Delaware Supreme Court. In a decision of Jan. 14, 1957, that court denied the motion and affirmed its Chancellor in all respects. The Florida decree was held not binding for purposes of full faith and credit because the Florida court had no personal jurisdiction over the trust companies and no jurisdiction over the trust res.
The issues for our decision are, first, whether Florida erred in holding that it had jurisdiction over the nonresident defendants, and second, whether Delaware erred in refusing full faith and credit to the Florida decree. We need not determine whether Florida was bound to give full faith and credit to the decree of the Delaware Chancellor
No. 107, The Florida Appeal. The question of our jurisdiction was postponed until the hearing of the merits. The appeal is predicated upon the contention that as applied to the facts of this case the Florida statute providing for constructive service is contrary to the Federal Constitution. 28 U. S. C. § 1257 (2). But in the state court appellants (the "beneficiaries") did not object that the statute was invalid as applied, but rather that the effect of the state court's exercise of jurisdiction in the circumstances of this case deprived them of a right under the Federal Constitution.
Relying upon the principle that a person cannot invoke the jurisdiction of this Court to vindicate the right of a third party,
Appellants charge that this judgment is offensive to the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because the Florida court was without jurisdiction. There is no suggestion that the court failed to employ a means of notice reasonably calculated to inform nonresident defendants of the pending proceedings,
In rem jurisdiction. Founded on physical power, McDonald v. Mabee, 243 U.S. 90, 91, the in rem jurisdiction of a state court is limited by the extent of its power and by the coordinate authority of sister States.
The Florida court held that the presence of the subject property was not essential to its jurisdiction. Authority over the probate and construction of its domiciliary's will, under which the assets might pass, was thought sufficient
Prior to the Fourteenth Amendment an exercise of jurisdiction over persons or property outside the forum State was thought to be an absolute nullity,
In personam jurisdiction. Appellees' stronger argument is for in personam jurisdiction over the Delaware trustee. They urge that the circumstances of this case amount to sufficient affiliation with the State of Florida to empower its courts to exercise personal jurisdiction over this nonresident defendant. Principal reliance is placed upon McGee v. International Life Ins. Co., 355 U.S. 220. In McGee the Court noted the trend of expanding personal jurisdiction over nonresidents. As technological
We fail to find such contacts in the circumstances of this case. The defendant trust company has no office in Florida, and transacts no business there. None of the trust assets has ever been held or administered in Florida, and the record discloses no solicitation of business in that State either in person or by mail. Cf. International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310; McGee v. International Life Ins. Co., 355 U.S. 220; Travelers Health Assn. v. Virginia, 339 U.S. 643.
The cause of action in this case is not one that arises out of an act done or transaction consummated in the forum State. In that respect, it differs from McGee v. International Life Ins. Co., 355 U.S. 220, and the cases there cited. In McGee, the nonresident defendant solicited a reinsurance agreement with a resident of California.
The execution in Florida of the powers of appointment under which the beneficiaries and appointees claim does not give Florida a substantial connection with the contract on which this suit is based. It is the validity of the trust agreement, not the appointment, that is at issue here.
It is urged that because the settlor and most of the appointees and beneficiaries were domiciled in Florida the courts of that State should be able to exercise personal jurisdiction over the nonresident trustees. This is a non sequitur. With personal jurisdiction over the executor, legatees, and appointees, there is nothing in federal law to prevent Florida from adjudicating concerning the respective rights and liabilities of those parties. But Florida has not chosen to do so. As we understand its law, the trustee is an indispensable party over whom the court must acquire jurisdiction before it is empowered to enter judgment in a proceeding affecting the validity of a trust.
Because it sustained jurisdiction over the nonresident trustees, the Florida Supreme Court found it unnecessary to determine whether Florida law made those defendants indispensable parties in the circumstances of this case. Our conclusion that Florida was without jurisdiction over the Delaware trustee, or over the trust corpus held in that State, requires that we make that determination in the first instance. As we have noted earlier, the Florida Supreme Court has repeatedly held that a trustee is an
No. 117, The Delaware Certiorari. The same reasons that compel reversal of the Florida judgment require affirmance of the Delaware one. Delaware is under no obligation to give full faith and credit to a Florida judgment invalid in Florida because offensive to the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. 28 U. S. C. § 1738. Even before passage of the Fourteenth Amendment this Court sustained state courts in refusing full faith and credit to judgments entered by courts that were without jurisdiction over nonresident defendants. D'Arcy v. Ketchum, 11 How. 165; Hall v. Lanning, 91 U.S. 160. See Baker v. Baker, Eccles & Co., 242 U.S. 394; Riley v. New York Trust Co., 315 U.S. 343. Since Delaware was entitled to conclude that Florida law made the trust company an indispensable party, it was under no obligation to give the Florida judgment any faith and credit—even against parties over whom Florida's jurisdiction was unquestioned.
It is suggested that this disposition is improper—that the Delaware case should be held while the Florida cause is remanded to give that court an opportunity to determine whether the trustee is an indispensable party in the circumstances of this case. But this is not a case like Herb v. Pitcairn, 324 U.S. 117, where it is appropriate to remand for the state court to clarify an ambiguity in its opinion that may reveal an adequate state ground that would deprive us of power to affect the result of the controversy. Nor is this a circumstance where the state
The rule of primacy to the first final judgment is a necessary incident to the requirement of full faith and credit. Our only function is to determine whether judgments are consistent with the Federal Constitution. In determining the correctness of Delaware's judgment we look to what Delaware was entitled to conclude from the Florida authorities at the time the Delaware court's judgment was entered. To withhold affirmance of a correct Delaware judgment until Florida has had time to rule on another question would be participating in the litigation instead of adjudicating its outcome.
The judgment of the Delaware Supreme Court is affirmed, and the judgment of the Florida Supreme Court is reversed and the cause is remanded for proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
MR. JUSTICE BLACK, whom MR. JUSTICE BURTON and MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN join, dissenting.
I believe the courts of Florida had power to adjudicate the effectiveness of the appointment made in Florida by Mrs. Donner with respect to all those who were notified of the proceedings and given an opportunity to be heard without violating the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Mrs. Donner was domiciled in Florida from 1944 until her death in 1952. The controversial appointment was made there in 1949. It provided that certain persons were to receive a share of the property held by the Delaware "trustee" under the so-called trust agreement upon her death. Until she died Mrs. Donner received the entire income from this property, and at all times possessed absolute power to revoke or alter the appointment and to dispose of the property as she pleased. As a practical matter she also retained control over the management of the property, the "trustee" in Delaware being little more than a custodian.
The same day the 1949 appointment was made Mrs. Donner executed a will, which after her death was duly probated in a Florida court. The will contained a residuary clause providing for the distribution of all of
In light of the foregoing circumstances it seems quite clear to me that there is nothing in the Due Process Clause which denies Florida the right to determine whether Mrs. Donner's appointment was valid as against its statute of wills. This disposition, which was designed to take effect after her death, had very close and substantial connections with that State. Not only was the appointment made in Florida by a domiciliary of Florida, but the primary beneficiaries also lived in that State. In my view it could hardly be denied that Florida had sufficient interest so that a court with jurisdiction might properly apply Florida law, if it chose, to determine whether the appointment was effectual. Watson v. Employers Liability Assurance Corp., 348 U.S. 66; Osborn v. Ozlin, 310 U.S. 53. True, the question whether the law of a State can be applied to a transaction is different from the question whether the courts of that State have jurisdiction to enter a judgment, but the two are often closely related and to a substantial degree depend upon similar considerations. It seems to me that where a transaction has as much relationship to a State as Mrs. Donner's appointment had to Florida its courts ought to have
Florida's interest in the validity of Mrs. Donner's appointment is made more emphatic by the fact that her will is being administered in that State. It has traditionally been the rule that the State where a person is domiciled at the time of his death is the proper place to determine the validity of his will, to construe its provisions and to marshal and distribute his personal property. Here Florida was seriously concerned with winding up Mrs. Donner's estate and with finally determining what property was to be distributed under her will. In fact this suit was brought for that very purpose.
The Court's decision that Florida did not have jurisdiction over the trustee (and inferentially the nonresident beneficiaries) stems from principles stated the better part
Perhaps the decision most nearly in point is Mullane v. Central Hanover Bank & Trust Co., 339 U.S. 306. In that case the Court held that a State could enter a personal judgment in favor of a trustee against nonresident beneficiaries of a trust even though they were not served with process in that State. So far as appeared, their only connection with the State was the fact that the trust was
Even if it be assumed that the Court is right in its jurisdictional holding, I think its disposition of the two cases is unjustified. It reverses the judgment of the Florida Supreme Court on the ground that the trustee may be, but need not be, an indispensable party to the Florida litigation under Florida law. At the same time it affirms the subsequent Delaware judgment. Although in form the Florida case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with the Court's opinion, the effect is that the Florida courts will be obliged to give full faith and credit to the Delaware judgment. This means the Florida courts will never have an opportunity to determine whether the trustee is an indispensable party. The Florida judgment is thus completely wiped out even as to those parties who make their homes in that State, and even though the Court acknowledges there is nothing in the Constitution which precludes Florida from entering a binding judgment for or against them. It may be argued that the Delaware judgment is the first to become final and therefore is entitled to prevail. But it only comes first because the Court makes it so. In my judgment the proper thing to do would be to hold the Delaware case until the Florida courts had an opportunity to
Mr. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, dissenting.
The testatrix died domiciled in Florida. Her will, made after she had acquired a domicile in Florida, was probated there. Prior to the time she established a domicile in Florida she executed a trust instrument in Delaware. By its terms she was to receive the income during her life. On her death the principal and undistributed income were to go as provided in any power of appointment or, failing that, in her last will and testament.
After she had become domiciled in Florida she executed a power of appointment; and she also provided in her will that if the power of appointment had not been effectively exercised, the property under the trust, consisting of intangibles, should pass to certain designated trusts.
The Florida court held that the power of appointment was testamentary in character and not being a valid testamentary disposition for lack of the requisite witnesses, failed as a will under Florida law. Therefore the property passed under the will. 100 So.2d 378.
Distribution of the assets of the estate could not be made without determining the validity of the power of appointment. The power of appointment, being integrated with the will, was as much subject to construction and interpretation by the Florida court as the will itself. Of course one not a party or privy to the Florida proceedings is not bound by it and can separately litigate
"(1) To enforce any legal or equitable lien upon or claim to any title or interest in real or personal property within the jurisdiction of the court or any fund held or debt owing by any party upon whom process can be served within this state.
"(5) For the construction of any will, deed, contract or other written instrument and for a judicial declaration or enforcement of any legal or equitable right, title, claim, lien or interest thereunder."
§ 48.02: "Where personal service of process cannot be had, service of process by publication may be had upon any party, natural or corporate, known or unknown, including: (1) Any known or unknown natural person . . . (2) Any corporation or other legal entity, whether its domicile be foreign, domestic or unknown . . . ."
The foregoing leaves unclear whether the court was invoking in personam jurisdiction over the trustee, or in rem jurisdiction over the trust assets. Henderson v. Usher, supra, which was an action by testamentary trustees for a construction of the will establishing a trust whose assets were held in New York, found it unnecessary to decide the basis of the jurisdiction exercised. In response to the jurisdictional objections of a specially appearing nonresident defendant, the Florida Supreme Court ruled: "Since the interpretation of the will is the primary question with which we are confronted we are impelled to hold that the res is at least constructively in this state and that the Florida courts are empowered to advise the trustees how to proceed under it and what rights those affected have in it. For the immediate purpose of this suit the will is the res and when that is voluntarily brought into the courts of Florida to be construed the trust created by it is to all intents and purposes brought with it." 118 Fla., at 692, 160 So., at 10.