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Matter of Estate of Joseph Damato

Decided: January 5, 1965.

IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF JOSEPH DAMATO, DECEASED


Goldmann, Sullivan and Labrecque. The opinion of the court was delivered by Labrecque, J.A.D.

Labrecque

This is an appeal from a judgment of the Probate Division awarding the balances in two out-of-state bank accounts to decedent's son Philip Damato.

The facts are not in dispute. Decedent died on November 6, 1960, a resident of Paterson, New Jersey. Although he had been engaged in the wastepaper business in the Paterson area for many years, he also had business interests in Florida, including the operation of a small stable of race horses. His will was admitted to probate by the Surrogate of Passaic County, his son James Damato qualifying as the executor thereof. On July 26, 1962 the executor filed a verified complaint praying, inter alia , for instructions as to the disposition of the balances remaining in two savings accounts in the Bank of Hollywood, Hollywood, Florida, which are the subject of the present controversy.

The first account, #9503, had been opened by the decedent on February 7, 1957 in the name of Joseph Damato in trust for Philip Damato. At the time of decedent's death a balance of $11,165.84 remained therein. On September 24, 1957 decedent opened a second account, #11141, also in his name in trust for Philip Damato. In this account, the balance at the time of his death was $5,684.26.

The first account was opened with a deposit of $7000, all but $201.66 of which had been transferred from the decedent's business account in the First National Bank of Passaic County, Paterson, New Jersey. Additional deposits totalling $3000, with interest payments, brought the balance up to $10,139.91 on September 24, 1957. The second account was started on the latter date with a $10,000 deposit transferred

from decedent's "Racing Account" in the Hollywood bank. On January 19, 1959, $5000 of this was withdrawn by the decedent and used for his own purposes. Thereafter there was no activity in either account beyond the accumulation of interest.

Both Philip and James Damato were sons of the decedent. Philip worked for his father in the Paterson business and never knew of the accounts until after the death of his father. The passbooks for both accounts remained in decedent's possession and were found among his papers in Florida.

In awarding the balance in each account to Philip, the trial judge held that the transactions were governed by the law of Florida, their situs , and since Florida had adopted the rule of In re Totten , 179 N.Y. 112, 71 N.E. 748, 70 L.R.A. 711 (Ct. App. 1904), they were effective to pass the balance in each account to Philip upon the death of the decedent.

The appellant contends that the trial judge erroneously took judicial notice of the law of Florida, notwithstanding the failure of the respondent to comply with the provisions of N.J.S. 2A:82-27, and that, having done so, he erroneously applied the substantive law of Florida rather than its conflict of laws.

N.J.S. 2A:82-27 provides that:

"Whenever the common or statute law of any other State or country is pleaded, or notice thereof given to the court and each adverse party at or before the pretrial conference, or at least 10 days before

trial when there is no pretrial conference, or within such other time as the court may fix by order, in an action in any court of this State, the court shall take judicial notice thereof. In the absence of such pleading or notice, it shall be presumed that the common law of such State ...


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