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Wickwire v. Reinecke

Supreme Court of the United States

October 3, 1927, Submitted ; November 21, 1927, Decided

No. 149


 [*102]   [**43]   [***185]  MR. CHIEF JUSTICE TAFT delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a suit by Jessie L. Wickwire, individually and as executrix of her husband, Edward L. Wickwire, to recover taxes from the United States Collector of Internal Revenue for the first district of Illinois, on the ground that they were assessed against her and collected without legal authority. The tax was a so-called estate tax assessed by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue under ] § 402(c) of the Revenue Act of 1918 (c. 18, 40 Stat. 1057, 1097). The section and paragraph provided:

"That the value of the gross estate of the decedent shall be determined by including the  [**44]  value at the time of his death of all property, real or personal, tangible or intangible, wherever situated -- . . .

"(c) To the extent of any interest therein of which the decedent has at any time made a transfer, or with  [*103]  respect to which he has at any time created a trust, in contemplation of or intended to take effect in possession or enjoyment at or after  [****3]  his death (whether such transfer or trust is made or created before or after the passage of this Act), except in case of a bona fide sale for a fair consideration in money or money's worth. Any transfer of a material part of his property in the nature of a final disposition or distribution thereof, made by the decedent within two years prior to his death without such a consideration, shall, unless shown to the contrary, be deemed to have been made in contemplation of death within the meaning of this title; . . ."

On December 22, 1919, the decedent, Edward L. Wickwire, transferred to his wife, the petitioner herein, cash and securities to the value of $ 362,028.48. He died April 21, 1920. The executrix did not include the value of the transferred property as part of the gross estate in her return for federal estate tax purposes. The Commissioner of Internal Revenue claimed and, after the usual administrative hearings, determined that the transfer was made in contemplation of death, and assessed as a tax $ 18,021.41, which was paid. The declaration of the petitioner set up these facts and alleged that the transfer by her husband to her was not in contemplation of death. The case  [****4]  came on for trial, a jury was impaneled and sworn, counsel for the executrix made his opening statement, called one witness and was examining him when the court interrupted the proceedings to raise on its own motion the point that the finding of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, unless impeached for fraud, bad faith, or mistaken legal theory, could not be reviewed by the court. Accordingly the attorney for the United States thereupon interposed a motion to dismiss. The petitioner then made certain offers of proof to establish the fact that the transfer was not in contemplation of death,  [*104]  which was excluded by the court. The case was then dismissed.

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275 U.S. 101 *; 48 S. Ct. 43 **; 72 L. Ed. 184 ***; 1927 U.S. LEXIS 257 ****; 1 U.S. Tax Cas. (CCH) P265; 6 A.F.T.R. (P-H) 7068; 1928-1 C.B. 316; 1928 P.H. P16



 CERTIORARI, 273 U.S. 687, to a judgment of the Circuit Court of Appeals which affirmed a judgment of the District Court dismissing a suit brought to recover from the Collector money demanded, and paid under protest, as an estate tax.

Disposition:  14 F.2d 956, reversed.


contemplation of death

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