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Matter of Estate of McFeely

Decided: October 1, 1951.

IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF MARY MCFEELY, DECEASED


On certification to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court.

For affirmance -- Chief Justice Vanderbilt, and Justices Case, Oliphant, Wachenfeld, Burling and Ackerson. For reversal -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Vanderbilt, C.J.

Vanderbilt

Mary McFeely died intestate on June 14, 1942, and in due course the Surrogate of Hudson County issued letters of administration on her estate to her brother, Bernard N. McFeely. He died on August 8, 1949, without having filed an inventory or an accounting of his sister's estate or without having made distribution thereof to her next of kin.

On April 11, 1950, Alice McFeely Gregory, a niece of Mary McFeely, filed a complaint in the Chancery Division of the Superior Court charging that Bernard N. McFeely had failed for a period of more than seven years to administer his sister's estate of the value of $400,000 or more, and that by reason thereof a dispute existed as to her rights and those of others in her aunt's estate, and praying for the appointment of a substituted administrator, "preferably one who is not pecuniarily or otherwise, directly or indirectly, interested in the

dispute * * * with reference to the interest of this plaintiff and others in the undistributed assets of the estate of Mary McFeely, deceased."

Joseph B. McFeely, a nephew of Bernard N. McFeely, deceased, was named as his executor in a paper dated November 6, 1947, which according to the complaint herein was in dispute in the Hudson County Court. He individually gave a notice of motion to dismiss the complaint on the ground that the Superior Court had no jurisdiction over the subject matter. The Chancery Division, however, denied the motion, sustained the complaint and upheld its jurisdiction to appoint a substituted administrator. The Appellate Division affirmed per curiam the decision of the Chancery Division and the matter now comes here by certification allowed by us.

The appellant contends that inasmuch as the surrogate granted the original letters of administration on the estate of Mary McFeely, deceased, her estate remains under his jurisdiction notwithstanding the death of the original administrator and that therefore the application for letters of substituted administration should be made to the surrogate and not to the Chancery Division of the Superior Court. But R.S. 3:7-61 provides that the appointment of a substituted administrator

"shall be made by the issuance of letters of substitutionary administration, with or without the will annexed as the case may be, by the surrogate of the proper county or the ordinary in the manner and upon the conditions prescribed for granting letters of administration to the first administrators in other cases."

By Article XI, Section IV, paragraph 3 of the Constitution of 1947 and Article VI, Section III, paragraph 3, the jurisdiction, functions, powers and duties of the ordinary are vested in the Superior Court, and by Rule 3:40-2 they are assigned to the Chancery Division of that court. The intent of the statute to give the Chancery Division, as the successor to the ordinary, the power to appoint substituted administrators is clear and unambiguous.

But the appellant argues that when a surrogate appoints the first administrator of an estate, he acquires exclusive jurisdiction over the estate until it is completely administered and such jurisdiction includes the power to appoint substituted administrators. This argument ignores Rule 3:88-1, which provides that

"The action for probate of a will, for letters of administration, letters of administration with the will annexed, letters of substitutionary administration, or letters of substitutionary administration with the will ...


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