In Re Dorrance’s Estate (1932)

In Re Dorrance’s Estate
309 Pa. 151, 163 A. 303, cert. denied, 288 U.S. 617 (1932)

Facts: John T. Dorrance was the owner of the Campbell Soup Company, who at the time of his death owned homes in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. One property known as “Woodcrest” was located in Radnor, Pennsylvania. The other property known as “Pomona Farms” was located in Cinnaminson township, Burlington County, New Jersey. Upon his death, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania claimed that Dorrance was domiciled in Pennsylvania for the purpose of collecting estate taxes. The executors of the estate claimed that there was a mere occasional occupancy of the Radnor estate.

Issue: May expressions to the effect that a person desires to remain domiciled in one state prevail over actual removal to a residence in another state?

Holding: No.

Analysis: Pomona Farms was purchased by Dorrance in 1909. Woodcrest was purchased in 1925, and was occupied by Dorrance in December of that year, at which time the family’s entire personal effects were removed from Cinnaminson to Radnor. Thereafter, until the time of his death in 1930, Dorrance only made occasional visits to his former home in New Jersey. Before 1925, Dorrance employed ten servants in Cinnaminson, and after 1925 never more than four. Sixteen servants were employed at Woodcrest with another ten to twelve tending the grounds. The residence in Pennsylvania was consistently chosen by the Dorrance family for social events, and Dorrance traveled back and forth daily from Radnor to his office in Camden. Dorrance’s motivation for wanting to keep the appearance of domicile in New Jersey was due to their much more favorable tax treatment. The law is generally settled that as regards the determination of domicile, a person’s expression of desire may not supersede the effect of his conduct. Recitals in deeds and wills are not given particular weight in determining domicile in comparison with the evidence supplied by the daily life of the individual and his acts and conduct. Vague intentions of resuming a former domicile will not prevent the acquisition of a new one. By the act of removing his home and family from New Jersey to Pennsylvania, Dorrance acquired a domicile in the latter state. The evidence clearly establishes the legal domicile of Dorrance to be Pennsylvania, and accordingly there is due to the commonwealth an inheritance transfer tax, based upon the agreed value of his estate at the time of his death.

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