THE SUPREME COURT OF THE
FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA
Cite as In re Estate of Hartman ,
6 FSM Intrm. 326 (Chuuk 1994)

[6 FSM Intrm. 326]

IN THE MATTER OF THE
ESTATE OF FRITZ HARTMAN,
Deceased.

CIVIL ACTION NO. 1989-1023

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

Richard H. Benson
Associate Justice

Trial:  January 3-4, 14-15, 28, 30, 1991
Decided:  February 16, 1994

APPEARANCES:
For the Estate:                         Picho Cheida, Administrator
                                                  P.O. Box 27
                                                  Weno, Chuuk FM 96942

For Samuel Hartman:             Maketo Robert, Esq.
(decedent's brother)               P.O. Box 211
                                                  Weno, Chuuk  96942

For Cecilia Hartman:              R. Barrie Michelsen, Esq.
             (widow)                        Law Offices of R. Barrie Michelsen
                                                  P.O. Box 1450
                                                  Kolonia, Pohnpei  96941

For Fredrick Albert                  Cecilia Hartman
Hartman and Fritz Edward     Guardian ad Litem
Hartman: (decedent's sons)

*    *    *    *

HEADNOTES
Custom and Tradition ) Chuuk; Property
     The sanction imposed on one who controls and manages the land of a group who does not fairly and according to custom concern himself with the rights of the other members or another member of the group is the censure of the community.  In re Estate of Hartman, 6 FSM Intrm. 326, 328 (Chk. 1994).

Custom and Tradition ) Chuuk; Property
     When the children of a landowner with full title to land inherit the land they form a land-owning group ("corporation").  The senior male, the mwniichi, is required to manage the property in the interest of the "corporation."  The corporation owns the land even if one part or another is allotted to a member for his use.  In re Estate of Hartman, 6 FSM Intrm. 326, 329 (Chk. 1994).

[6 FSM Intrm. 327]

Custom and Tradition ) Chuuk; Property
     Individuals have full title to the improvements (as distinguished from the soil) made upon land owned by a land-owning group or "corporation."  In re Estate of Hartman, 6 FSM Intrm. 326, 330 (Chk. 1994).

Custom and Tradition ) Chuuk; Property
     The property owned in full title by one who dies is inherited by the children of the deceased.  Personal property suited for use by women is inherited by daughters and sisters.  In re Estate of Hartman, 6 FSM Intrm. 326, 330 (Chk. 1994).

*    *    *    *

COURT'S OPINION
RICHARD H. BENSON, Associate Justice:
     In January 1991, a trial was held on the questions of what property is included in the estate of the decedent and to whom it passes upon his death. Upon completion of the trial the matter was taken under advisement pending notice to creditors, action on claims, and other steps necessary before final distribution.  The administration of the estate continued.  In August 1992, counsel, in the belief that a decision would hasten administration, requested that I give my decision.  Parties recognize that this decision does not distribute the property at this time because the property may be subject to creditors' claims.

     I have fully considered all of the testimony and evidence presented at the trial together with the closing arguments of counsel which were submitted by written memoranda.

FINDINGS OF FACT
     1.  Albert Hartman died in 1965 having full title to part of the island of Totiw, two parcels on Fefan called Nepi and Nesuk, and one parcel on Weno called Neuonong #2a.

     NOTE:  The parties stipulated that Totiw and Nepi were owned by Albert Hartman in his own right.  The case was tried and this decision is based on that stipulation.  The record however contains information to indicate that the Albert Hartman landowning group may be a part of a larger group:  1) the witness Manuel Francis is a maternal and paternal cousin of Fritz Hartman and Samuel Hartman, and 2) Nepi and Totiw were purchased by Albert Hartman's grandfather.

     As to Nesuk and Neuonong #2a, the parties stipulated that they too had been owned by Albert Hartman alone.

     2.  The only children of Albert Hartman, Fritz Hartman and Samuel Hartman, inherited these four parcels of land.  Fritz Hartman was the older of the two. He managed and controlled the four parcels until his death on January 15, 1989.

     3.  Fritz Hartman was survived by his wife, Cecilia Hartman, and two sons, Fredrick Albert Hartman (born September 22, 1976) and Fritz Edward Hartman (born January 2, 1983).

     4.  Beginning in 1984, Fritz Hartman began improving Totiw, with preliminary earthmoving, and by constructing a meeting hall, concrete steps, a large water catchment and partially

[6 FSM Intrm. 328]

completing a 60 foot very large two story dwelling of which the ground floor and the second story floor were finished.

     The construction continued until the death of Fritz Hartman.

     5.  Labor and thousands of dollars were expended by Fritz Hartman and Cecilia Hartman to accomplish the improvements.  Samuel Hartman assisted from time to time by providing work gangs and his own labor.

     6.  Samuel Hartman occupied and used Nepi for many years.  Earlier Fritz Hartman built two houses on Nepi in 1973.

     7.  Fritz Hartman built a house, a store, and a warehouse on Nesuk and occupied this parcel beginning in 1973.

     An order of the Truk State Court dated December 27, 1984 decreed that of Nesuk was owned by Fritz Hartman and another, and decreed a division between the two with the buildings of Fritz Hartman to be upon the portion to be given to him.  TSC Civil Action No. 181-84.

     No proceeding of Civil Action No. 181-84 was introduced at trial other than the order itself.

     8.  There is no evidence that Samuel Hartman consented to or was consulted on the question of full title to Nesuk going to Fritz Hartman.  There is testimony that Fritz Hartman was acting on behalf of the group and protecting its claim to Nesuk.

     9.  A determination of ownership was issued by the Land Commission on January 30, 1980 declaring that Neuonong #2a was owned by "Hartman Brothers.  But Fritz Hartman has been designated as person incharge [sic]".

     10.  The relation between an uncle and his nephews is marked by love on the one hand and love and respect on the other.  This bond is fostered and constantly considered by all: no one wants it broken.

     11.  No breach of the bond between Samuel Hartman on the one hand and Fredrick Albert Hartman and Fritz Edward Hartman on the other has occurred.

     12.  The sanction imposed on one who controls and manages the land of a group who does not fairly and according to custom concern himself with the rights of the other members or another member of the group is the censure of the community.

     13.  At the time of his death Fritz Hartman had full title to the following personal property:

     a) Fritz Hartman stores operating on Totiw, from a takeout van on Weno, and perhaps other locations, cash and bank accounts, and these vehicles located on Weno: a Toyota van, a dump truck, and a pickup truck,

     b) pigs and chickens on Totiw,

     c) fishing nets (throwing and gill),

[6 FSM Intrm. 329]

     d) masks, snorkel, tanks and other fishing equipment,

     e) kitchen articles and tableware,

     f) mats, pillows, bedding, beds, sofa, pictures, linens, and like furniture and furnishings,

     g) clothing and jewelry of Fritz Hartman,

     h) Lisia

     i) 26 foot wooden boat; two 140 hp. engines, one 40 hp. engine, and any other engines,

     j) tools, brush cutters, weeders, two pool tables, building materials, and remaining like miscellaneous personal property, and

     k) walkie-talkie,

     In addition, Fritz Hartman received a war claim of some $13,000.00 which was on deposit until taken by the administrator.

     14.  Among the property of the decedent is a VCR and TV.  It is not an asset of the estate but is the separate property of Cecilia Hartman, who received it from Avon.

     15.  The funds received in 1976 through a war claim are not an asset of the estate, and may not be traced to any present asset.

     16.  Cecilia Hartman was a full participant in the operation of Fritz Hartman stores.

     17.  Lisia (item 13h above) is a 45 foot wooden boat designed by Fritz Hartman who purchased the materials for building it together with the two diesel engines which power it.  It took a year to build.  Labor was provided by Manuel Francis and Samuel Hartman.
 
     Based upon the foregoing findings, the closing memoranda of the parties, and the learned treatises (noticed in advance by the court and cited where applicable by each party), I have arrived at the following

CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
     1.  Upon the death of Albert Hartman in 1965 the land to which he had full title was inherited by Fritz Hartman and Samuel Hartman, thereby, by operation of custom, establishing a landowning group (hereinafter called "corporation," the nomenclature used in Ward H. Goodenough, Property, Kin and Community on Truk 30, 31 (2d ed. 1978)).

     2.  The property owned by the corporation was managed and controlled by Fritz Hartman, the older of the two.  The person having this role (mwniichi) is required to exercise his authority in the interest of the corporation.  Upon the death of Fritz Hartman, Samuel Hartman succeeded to this position.

     3.  The corporation owns the land even if one part or another is allotted to a member for his use.

[6 FSM Intrm. 330]

     4.  Fritz Hartman had full title to the improvements (as distinguished from the soil) made by him upon Nesuk and upon Totiw.  The improvements were inherited by Fredrick Albert Hartman and Fritz Edward Hartman. Goodenough, supra, at 34, 39, 43; John L. Fischer, Native Land Tenure in the Truk District, in Land Tenure Patterns in the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands 166 (J.E. Young ed., 1958).

     5.  The sons of Fritz Hartman do not inherit Nesuk and Totiw which were occupied, worked upon and used by Fritz Hartman.  These parcels remain part of the property of the corporation to be managed and administered by Samuel Hartman for the benefit of the corporation.  He may allocate this property to the sons of Fritz Hartman but is not obliged to do so.  Expert Testimony at Trial; Goodenough, supra, at 42.

     6.  Fritz Hartman was acting as administrator of the corporation in his appearance in Truk State Court Case No. 181-84.  Nesuk remains as one of the parcels owned by the corporation.

     In making this conclusion I have no wish to conflict with the action of the Truk State Court.  I do not believe I have.  However it is possible that the position Cecilia Hartman takes, namely, that the court action gave Fritz Hartman full title, can be supported by testimony setting out the entire proceedings.  Leave is granted (since this decision today is not a final judgment) for her to open this issue by motion within a reasonable time if she is so advised.

     7.  The property owned in full title by one who dies is inherited by the children of the deceased.  Personal property suited for use by women is inherited by daughters and sisters.

     Because there are no daughters or sisters of the deceased, Cecilia Hartman inherits those items of personal property normally used by her and within her responsibility.

     8.  As to the store the general rule that the children inherit reflects circumstances different than those presented in this case.  Here there was extensive participation by the husband (now deceased) and his wife in the cash economy of the state.  The wife held full-time employment for the government during the entire period the store was established and operated. She also shared with the deceased the entire responsibility for the staffing of the operation, ordering supplies, and managing its finances.

     9.  The personal property is divided as follows:

     To Cecilia Hartman:  property listed in finding 13e and 13f.

     To Cecilia Hartman, Fredrick Albert Hartman and Fritz Edward Hartman:  property listed in finding 13a.

     To Fredrick Albert Hartman and Fritz Edward Hartman:  property listed in finding 13b, 13c, 13d, 13g through 13k.

     To the corporation to be administered by Samuel Hartman: the proceeds of the war claim amounting to some $13,000.00.

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