[78 NJSuper Page 258] Are certain judgments against Patsy Yannelli liens upon real estate which he would have inherited from his mother had it not been for an assignment he made
prior to her death? That is the question presented by this case.
On March 1, 1957 Patsy assigned to the plaintiffs, who are his sisters and his brother, his expectant interest in the estate of his mother. The assignment was in writing and was duly acknowledged. He was paid $2,500 for it.
On August 28, 1959 Jennie Yannelli, the mother, died. She left a will dated February 19, 1952, which was admitted to probate on September 11, 1959. It contained a residuary clause giving to all four of her children equal shares of her entire net estate, with the exception of some jewelry. At her death Mrs. Yannelli owned three pieces of real estate in Essex County and one in Monmouth County.
On December 14, 1959 judgment was entered for $5,223.59 in favor of Star Petroleum -- a defendant here -- and against Patsy Yannelli. The unpaid balance of the judgment is $3,988.09 plus interest on the entire judgment from the date of its entry.
On December 22, 1959 Patsy's assignment dated March 1, 1957 was for the first time placed on record. This was done by filing it with the Surrogate of Essex County among the papers relating to the estate of Jennie Yannelli and under the docket number assigned to that estate. There was no other filing or recording.
On January 6, 1960 judgment was entered for $216.48 in favor of Abraham Flaster, trading as Hy-Grade Fuel Oil Company -- also a defendant here -- and against Patsy Yannelli. No part of this has been paid.
There has been other litigation relating to Patsy's assignment of March 1, 1957. Following his mother's death he brought suit to rescind his assignment on equitable grounds. The case was tried before me and I decided it against Patsy and in favor of the assignees. No questions were raised, however, about the judgments mentioned above, Patsy's judgment creditors not having been joined as parties. Granting that the defendants Star Petroleum and Abraham Flaster are not bound by the decision of the earlier case in which they
were not parties, I still find the assignment valid. On the date of the assignment no one could say with certainty that Mrs. Yannelli would leave anything to Patsy, or that Patsy might not die before her, or that she would not live for many additional years, or that her estate might not shrink greatly in value before her death. Though the record suggests that one-fourth of Mrs. Yannelli's estate -- which would have been Patsy's share -- was worth at her death substantially more than the $2,500 paid to Patsy for his assignment, I conclude that the consideration he received was adequate. For a $2,500 certainty he resolved a whole group of contingencies.
Our cases support the validity of the assignment. Fidelity Union Trust Co. v. Reeves , 96 N.J. Eq. 490 (Ch. 1924), affirmed 98 N.J. Eq. 412 (E. & A. 1925); Brands v. DeWitt , 44 N.J. Eq. 545 (E. & A. 1888); Bacon v. Bonham , 27 N.J. Eq. 209 (Ch. 1876), affirmed 33 N.J. Eq. 614 (E. & A. 1881); Havens v. Thompson , 26 N.J. Eq. 383 (Ch. 1875); McFarland v. Stanton Mfgr. Co. , 53 N.J. Eq. 649 (E. & A. 1895); Bankers Trust Co. v. Crane , 70 N.J. Super. 447 (Ch. Div. 1961) (dictum).
The weight of authority in other jurisdictions is to the same effect. In re Barnett , 124 F.2d 1005 (2 Cir. 1942); In re Cornell's Will , 170 Misc. 638, 12 N.Y.S. 2 d 162 (Surr. Ct. 1939); Annotations, 17 A.L.R. 601 et seq. and 44 A.L.R. 1465 et seq. , 4 Pomeroy, Equity Jurisprudence (5 th ed. 1941), § 1287, p. 821; 3 American ...