United States v. Stapf

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: Stapf
LOCATION: New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department

DOCKET NO.: 54
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 375 US 118 (1963)
ARGUED: Oct 23, 1963 / Oct 24, 1963
DECIDED: Dec 02, 1963

Facts of the case

Question

Media for United States v. Stapf

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 24, 1963 in United States v. Stapf

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 23, 1963 in United States v. Stapf

Earl Warren:

Number 54, United States, Petitioner, versus Dorothy Anne Stapf and B. T. Ware, Executors.

Mr. Barnett.

Wayne G. Barnett:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This is an estate tax case.

It's here on certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, involves two entirely separate questions and I will state the facts relevant to each in connection with the discussion of that question.

Both questions are I think very simple one.

The first question is whether the estate was entitled to a marital deduction and I think that question can be fairly stated as being whether it would be quest of property for surviving wife one condition that she conveys property of equal value to a testator's children qualified for marital deduction.

Lowell H. Stapf, a resident of Texas died in 1953.

He was survived by his wife.

At the date of his death, he owned as in separate property real estate valued at $65,000.

He and his wife together own as community property assets with the total value of $258,000.

His will provided that all of his property, that is his separate property and his half of the community property were to go -- was to go to a trust for the children giving nothing to his wife unless she consented to allow all of the community property to pass according to the terms of the will.

If she did so consent, she was then to receive one third of everything, one third of his separate property, plus one third of the community property.

Potter Stewart:

Is she -- is she then to like to take under will what was (Inaudible)?

Wayne G. Barnett:

She would take only her half of the community property and all of his property, his half of the community property plus his separate property would go to a trust for the children.

Potter Stewart:

I think I understand.

Under the Texas law, what statutory right to say a surviving spouse has?

Wayne G. Barnett:

She is entitled to one-half of all the community property less one-half of the debts.

Potter Stewart:

That --

Wayne G. Barnett:

Of the community, yes.

Potter Stewart:

And -- and --

Wayne G. Barnett:

She would have taken -- let me give you the figures.

In this case, had she not taken under the will, had she just stood on her rights, her ownership of community property, she would receive net $111,000 with the property.

William O. Douglas:

As result of Texas law?

Wayne G. Barnett:

As result Texas law, that is correct.

Arthur J. Goldberg:

(Inaudible) --

Wayne G. Barnett:

No, no.

She would get only her half of community property less one-half of the community debts and that would net out to be $111,000.

She, in fact, elected to comply with the will and to allow the property to pass under the will.

Under the will, she received one-third of his separate property which is worth $22,000 and kept one-third of the community property which is worth $85,000, which totaled $107,000.