CHUUK STATE SUPREME COURT TRIAL DIVISION

Cite as In re Estate of Manas, 15 FSM Intrm. 609 (Ch. S. Ct. Tr. 2008)

[15 FSM Intrm 609]

IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF

JOEL MANAS,

Deceased,

By:  Santina Sos,

Petitioner.

CSSC PROBATE NO. 04-2008

PRELIMINARY FINDINGS AND ORDER FOR ADDITIONAL SUBMISSIONS

Keske S. Marar

Associate Justice

Hearing:  May 1, 2008

Decided:  May 6, 2008
 

[15 FSM Intrm 610]

APPEARANCES:

For the Petitioner:  George Hauk

                               P.O. Box 1405

                               Weno, Chuuk FM 96942
 

For the Claimant:   Fredrick A. Hartman

(Cherita Manas)     P.O. Box 453

                               Weno, Chuuk FM 96942

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HEADNOTES

Domestic Relations ) Probate; Property

      When it was established that a decedentís real property at issue was lineage land, it continues to be property of the lineage, and is not part of the decedentís estate. In re Estate of Manas, 15 FSM Intrm. 609, 611 (Chk. S. Ct. Tr. 2008).

Domestic Relations ) Probate; Property

      Title to land is not generally subject to probate but transfers pursuant to a valid will to the devisees specified in the will, or if there is no valid will, to the ownerís heirs according to intestate succession. In re Estate of Manas, 15 FSM Intrm. 609, 611 (Chk. S. Ct. Tr. 2008).

Domestic Relations ) Probate; Social Security

      Social security benefits are not subject to probate, as the Social Security Board, not the court, has initial jurisdiction over applications for social security benefits, whether by a surviving spouse or surviving children. The procedure for such applications is set forth in the Social Security Act. In re Estate of Manas, 15 FSM Intrm. 609, 611 (Chk. S. Ct. Tr. 2008).

Insurance

      Only if a life insurance policy has no designated or named beneficiary, would the policy benefits be payable to a decedentís estate to be distributed through probate to his heirs or devisees. In re Estate of Manas, 15 FSM Intrm. 609, 611 (Chk. S. Ct. Tr. 2008).

Insurance

      When the decedentís life insurance policy named his mother, who predeceased the decedent, as beneficiary, the rights in the policy became part of her estate when she died and descended to the devisees according to her will, if she had one, or her heirs according to the law of intestate succession, if she had no will. In re Estate of Manas, 15 FSM Intrm. 609, 611 (Chk. S. Ct. Tr. 2008).

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COURTíS OPINION

KESKE S. MARAR, Associate Justice:

Background

      On February 7, 2007, decedent Joel Manas died intestate. On February 12, 2008, petitioner Santina Sos, decedentís surviving spouse, filed her petition for appointment as administratrix of the

[15 FSM Intrm 611]

estate of Joel Manas. A radio announcement regarding the petition was made the same day. On March 12, 2008, Cherita Manas, on behalf of herself and her sister Randa Manas filed a response to the petition, stating they and not Santina Sos are the rightful heirs to their fatherís estate. On May 1, 2008, the court held a proceeding on the matter and took the issue of the probate of the decedentís estate under advisement.

Analysis

      At trial, it was established that the decedentís real property at issue was lineage land, which continues to be property of the lineage, and not part of his estate. Even if it were not lineage land, title to land is not generally subject to probate, but transfers pursuant to a valid will to the devisees specified in the will, or if there is no valid will, to the ownerís heirs, according to intestate succession. See George v. Abraham, 14 FSM Intrm. 102, 106 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 2006).

      Decedentís social security benefits are also not subject to probate, as the Social Security Board, not the court, has initial jurisdiction over applications for social security benefits. Whether by a surviving spouse or surviving children, the procedure for such applications is set forth in the Social Security Act. See 73 TTC 101 et seq. Therefore, the court will make no determination regarding rights to decedentís social security benefits.

      Decedentís life insurance policy was also placed in issue. Only if a life insurance policy has no designated or named beneficiary, would the policy benefits be payable to his estate to be distributed through probate to his heirs or devisees. John v. Chuuk Public Utility Corp., 15 FSM Intrm. 169, 171 (Chk. 2007). In this case, it was established that decedentís life insurance policy named his mother, Rose Manas, who predeceased decedent, as beneficiary. When she died, the rights in the policy became part of her estate and descended to the devisees according to her will, if she had one, or her heirs according to the law of intestate succession, if she had no will.

      Consequently, before the court may make any determination as to the rights in the life insurance policy, the court requires additional information regarding decedentís mothersí devisees or heirs.

Conclusion

      It is therefore ordered that any interested person may submit, within fourteen days of the date of this order, evidence regarding the rightful heirs or devisees of decedentís mother. The parties are also invited to submit any briefing on how the laws of intestate succession should operate, by custom or otherwise, in this case. Upon the submission of such evidence and briefing, the court will make its final determination as to rights to decedentís life insurance policy. The court also reserves ruling on petitionerís request to be appointed as administratrix until the determination on the life insurance policy is made.

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