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KLEIN v. UNITED STATES

decided: April 13, 1931.

KLEIN, FORMER ADMINISTRATRIX, ET AL
v.
UNITED STATES



CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF CLAIMS.

Hughes, Holmes, Van Devanter, McReynolds, Brandeis, Sutherland, Butler, Stone, Roberts

Author: Sutherland

[ 283 U.S. Page 232]

 MR. JUSTICE SUTHERLAND delivered the opinion of the Court.

The petitioners are the sole surviving heirs of Solomon Klein and distributees of his estate. He died intestate, leaving among other property, two parcels of land in Cook County, Illinois, which, some fifteen months prior to his death, he had conveyed to his wife, Etta M. Klein, by deed, the habendum clauses of which are as follows:

"First. To have and to hold the said lands unto the said grantee for and during the term of her natural life, and if she shall die prior to the decease of said grantor then and in that event she shall by virtue hereof take no greater or other estate in said lands and the reversion in fee in and to the same shall in that event remain vested in said grantor, his heirs, and assigns, such reversion being

[ 283 U.S. Page 233]

     hereby reserved to said grantor and excepted from this conveyance.

"Second. Upon condition and in the event that said grantee shall survive the said grantor, then and in that case only the said grantee shall by virtue of this conveyance take, have, and hold the said lands in fee simple, unto the sole use of herself, her heirs, and assigns forever."

In auditing the estate tax return of the administratrix, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue included in the gross estate the value of these two parcels of land, after deducting therefrom the value of the life estate; and the tax thereto attributable was assessed against the estate. This was paid, and a claim for refund was rejected. Thereupon, petitioners sued in the Court of Claims to recover the amount. That court rendered judgment against petitioners. 42 F.2d 596.

The case turns upon the meaning and application of ยง 402 of the Revenue Act of 1918, c. 18, 40 Stat. 1057, 1097, which provides that the value of the gross estate of the decedent shall be determined by including the value at the time of his death of all property, etc. --

"(c) To the extent of any interest therein of which the decedent has at any time made a transfer, or with respect to which he has at any time created a trust, . . . intended to take effect in possession or enjoyment at or after his death . . ."

The two clauses of the deed are quite distinct -- the first conveys a life estate; the second deals with the remainder. The life estate is granted with an express reservation of the fee, which is to "remain vested in said grantor" in the event that the grantee "shall die prior to the decease of said grantor." By the second clause the grantee takes the fee in the event -- "and in that case only" -- that she shall survive the grantor. It follows that only a life ...


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