Civil action. On motion for summary judgment.
This is an interesting case in both its factual and legal aspects.
On September 15, 1947, one John Oscsenda entered into a written agreement to purchase certain lands and premises designated as No. 716 Anderson Street in the City of Trenton from the defendants Michael Maurer and Susanna, his wife, for a consideration of $4,500. The initial payment of $500 was made and the balance of $4,000 was payable under the terms of the contract upon the delivery of the deed. While no specific date for the consummation of the transaction was stated, the omission is not the subject of discord. The plaintiff, Mrs. Oscsenda, was not a contracting party but significantly the agreement embodies the following term: "The deed herein mentioned shall run to the purchaser herein and to Helen Oscsenda, his wife."
Before the agreement was performed and the conveyance executed, the vendee, John Oscsenda, died intestate leaving him surviving his widow, who was mentioned in the instrument, and three daughters, the defendants Betty Griffin, Margaret Scinta, and Anna Stevens. Letters of administration of the decedent's estate were issued to his widow. The vendors are ready and willing to convey the premises in pursuance of the agreement, but to whom is a matter of incertitude.
The plaintiff in her individual interest requests this court under the authority of the Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act (R.S. 2:26-66, et seq., N.J.S.A.) to adjudicate in the
acknowledged circumstances the rights of the parties herein under the agreement of sale, and to declare that the administratrix should pay the balance of the purchase price and that the premises should be conveyed to her personally in observance of the term of the agreement.
The competitive insistence is that the premises constitute an asset of which the decedent died seized and that by reason of his intestacy the title should pass to his heirs at law. The consideration of the legal issues is accelerated by a motion on behalf of the heirs for a summary judgment in their favor. Rule 3:56-2.
In Siesel v. Mandeville , 140 N.J. Eq. 490, 55 A.2d 167, the defendant contracted in writing to convey the designated premises to "William M. Siesel and Josephine M. Siesel, his wife." I concluded that it was consonant and compatible with our equitable jurisprudence to hold that upon the execution of the contract the vendees became the equitable owners in fee of an estate co-equal in its "incidents, properties and consequences" to a legal estate by the entirety. Haughwout v. Murphy , 22 N.J. Eq. 531, 546; Cushing v. Blake , 30 N.J. Eq. 689; Martling v. Martling , 55 N.J. Eq. 771, 781, 39 A. 203; Brown v. Brown , 82 N.J. Eq. 40, 88 A. 186; 26 Am. Jur. "Husband and Wife" § 76. The statement that in equity a contract for the sale of land is recognized, for most purposes, as if it were specifically executed and performed is now proverbial.
The principle that equity regards as done what ought to be done is particularly ostentatious in its treatment of contracts for the sale of real estate. Professor Pomeroy explains: "In some respects, and for some purposes, the contract is executory in equity as well as at law; but so far as the interest or estate in the land of the two parties is concerned , it is regarded as executed, and as operating to transfer the estate from the vendor and to vest it in the vendee." (Italics mine.) 2 Pomeroy's Eq. Jur. (5 th ed.) § 368.
In the present case, the vendors and the vendee, now deceased, all agreed that the conveyance should be made to the contracting vendee and to ...