Moffitt v. Kelly
James Moffitt was married in California in the year 1863, and there resided with his wife until his death, on October 25, 1906. He left a large amount of property, all of which formed part of the community which existed between himself and his wife. By a will, duly admitted to probate, Moffitt disposed of all his estate to his wife and children in the same proportions as if he had died intestate.
The probate court held that 'the interest of the widow in the community property of herself and her deceased husband' was subject to be taxed under a law of California of 1905, which taxed all property passing by will or in case of intestacy from any person who may die seised or possessed of the same. A tax of $26,684.57 was thereupon assessed as against Mrs. Moffitt's one half interest in the estate, and an order was entered directing payment of the tax by the executors. An appeal was taken to the supreme court of California. The single question presented by the appeal, as stated in the opinion of the supreme court, was 'whether the surviving wife's share of the community property is subject to this inheritance tax.' The question was answered in the affirmative. In an opinion denying an application for a rehearing, the court also adversely disposed of the contention that the enforcement of the tax would violate the contract clause or the equal protection and due process clauses of the Constitution of the United States. 153 Cal. 359, 20 L.R.A. (N.S.) 207, 95 Pac. 653, 1025. The case was then brought to this court.
Mr. Warren Olney for plaintiffs in error.
Messrs. Robert A. Waring, U.S. Webb, and Snook & Church for defendant in error.
Statement by Mr. Justice White:
Mr. Justice White, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court: