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The general principle is that the rights dependent upon nuptial contracts are to be determined by the lex loci. The general rule recognizes as valid a marriage considered valid in the place where celebrated. There are two exceptions to that rule - viz., cases within the prohibition of positive law; and cases involving polygamy or incest in a degree regarded generally as within the prohibition of natural law.
Decedent, who was the husband's niece by half-blood, and the husband were married in Rhode Island where their marriage was valid. The decedent died in New York where the marriage was invalid. The husband objected to the issuance of letters of administration to the daughter on the ground that, as surviving spouse, he had the paramount right to administer the decedent's estate. The Ulster County Surrogate's Court (New York) reversed the order granting letters of administration to the daughter and remanded the case with instructions that the husband be granted the letters of administration.
Did the husband have the paramount right to administer the decedent’s estate, notwithstanding the fact that the parties’ marriage was invalid in New York?
The court upheld the order reversing the order issuing the letters of administration to the daughter. The court held that the legality of the marriage had to be determined by the law of the state where it was celebrated. The marriage was valid because it was valid under Rhode Island law. N.Y. Dom. Rel. Law § 5 did not regulate marriages of New York domiciliaries that were solemnized in another state and did not void the husband's marriage even though the marriage would have been void if performed in New York. As the marriage was not offensive to the public sense of morality to a degree regarded with abhorrence, it was not prohibited by natural law.