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MELLEN V. BUCKNER, 139 U. S. 388 (1891)

U.S. Supreme Court

Mellen v. Buckner, 139 U.S. 388 (1891)

Mellen v. Buckner

Nos. 13, 27

Argued November 25-26, 1889

Decided March 23, 1891

139 U.S. 388




M., a planter of Louisiana, died in 1860, leaving as his heirs, the minor children of his deceased daughter Julia, and the minor grandson of his deceased daughter Ann. At the death of his wife in 1844, a large portion of the property then in his possession was community property, in which she was entitled to a half interest. Before his death he attempted, by sale and donation of specified estates, valued and appraised by him, to give to his daughter Julia (who was then living) her interest in the community property left by her mother and three-fourths of his own remaining estate, and, in a like way, to give to the grandson of his daughter Ann his like interest in the community property and the remaining one-fourth of his own estate. At his death, he left a will with similar provisions. The parties each entered into possession of the properties thus respectively assigned to them, occupying in separate parcels,

Page 139 U. S. 389

without interference from the testamentary executor. But in 1869, the testamentary executor of M. made a simulated sale of all the lands at the instance of one of the parties concerned. A creditor of his estate then filed a bill on behalf of himself and other creditors to set aside this sale as fraudulent and to subject the lands to the payment of the testator's debts, and such proceedings were had thereon that this Court at October term, 1883, decided that the sale was fraudulent in fact and that the lands in the hands of the heirs were liable for his debts. Johnson v. Waters, 111 U. S. 640. The cause having been remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings and to afford other creditors an opportunity to become parties, the representatives of the heirs of Julia and of the heirs of Ann, respectively, presented their claims as creditors for their interest in the community property, and also filed bills in the nature of supplemental or cross-bills, setting up that they were not parties to the former decree, averring the validity of the sale declared fraudulent, setting up their claims to the community property, and claiming that they should be allowed for improvements. The creditors' representative answered that the debts for the community property had been fully paid from rents and revenues, or, if not paid, had, under the laws of Louisiana, become subordinated to the debts of ordinary creditors. Further evidence was taken in addition to that in the original cause:


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