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In re Gilbert's Estate

Supreme Court of Arizona

February 11, 1952

In re GILBERT'S ESTATE.
v.
GILBERT STATE

Judgment affirmed.

Fred O. Wilson, Atty. Gen. and Kent A. Blake, Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellant.

Neil C. Clark, of Phoenix, for appellee.

Udall, Chief Justice. Stanford, Phelps, De Concini and La Prade, JJ., concur.

OPINION

Udall, Chief Justice.

[73 Ariz. 262] The question presented on this appeal involves a matter of statutory construction. The state of Arizona has appealed from the denial of its petition requesting the lower court to enter an order directing William K. Gilbert, as executor of the estate of Anna K. Gilbert, to pay the balance of its claim against the decedent's estate amounting to $ 755.15.

The statute in question was adopted by the seventh special session of the Eighteenth Legislature, which amended section 70-205, A.C.A.1939 (so far as material), to read as follows: "1. Claim against the estate. Upon the death of any recipient of old age assistance the state of Arizona shall have a claim against his estate for the total amount of assistance paid to such recipient subsequent to the effective date of this act, which claim shall be that of a general creditor. Provided, however, that no claim shall be filed against the estate of any recipient leaving a surviving

Page 535

spouse, a minor child, or any unmarried mentally handicapped child who is not confined in any public institution. Provided further, that no claim shall be filed against the first one thousand dollars [$ 1,000.00] valuation of any estate as valued by the inventory and appraisement in the probate of said estate." (Emphasis supplied.)

From the effective date of this section (October 26, 1948) until the date of her death (January 10, 1951) the recipient, Anna K. Gilbert, now deceased, received $ 1580 in grants of old age assistance.

William K. Gilbert was duly appointed as executor of the estate and pursuant to the statute the state presented its claim against the estate for the last-named amount. There was no surviving spouse, minor child or unmarried mentally handicapped child, and the estate was valued at $ 3,300. The claim was allowed by the executor and approved by the court but according to the view of the executor only $ 824.85 was available for its payment after all deductions and preferred claims were subtracted. It should be noted that there were no other general creditors.

The state assigns as error the denial of its petition for the reason that: "A creditor's claim properly filed by the state of Arizona pursuant to Section 70-205 must be paid in full when the appraised value of the estate, after deducting $ 1,000.00, exceeds the amount of the claim."

[73 Ariz. 263] It is conceded that this proposition must stand or fall depending upon the construction given section 70-205, supra. The appellant contends that the law is ambiguous and therefore the court should apply the following rules of construction laid down in Parrack v. Ford,68 Ariz. 205, 203 P.2d 872: (1) any doubtful questions of construction should be resolved in favor of the state or municipality ...


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