Re Joyce; Corbet v Fagan

Judgment Date19 October 1946
Date19 October 1946
CourtSupreme Court
In re Joyce; Corbet v. Fagan.
In the matter of the Estate of GEORGE JOYCE,Deceased; MARY CORBET

Supreme Court.

Domicil - Domicil of origin - Domicil of choice - Person whose domicil of origin was Irish residing many years in England - Whether domicil of origin changed - Absence of independent evidence of intention to change domicil - Inferences to be drawn by the Court - Sufficiency of evidence to establish change of domicil.

J. was born in County Galway in the year 1873, and lived there until 1895, when he became temporarily of unsound mind and was an inmate of a mental institution in Dublin. He remained in the institution for about eighteen months, returning to his home in County Galway in 1897. Shortly afterwards he emigrated to Canada. He stayed in Canada until the year 1901, when he returned to Ireland. He lived in Ireland until 1907, when he went to reside in England, where he remained until his death in 1944. From 1907 to 1927 he lived at first in a club and later in lodgings in London. From 1927 to 1933 he was confined at various mental institutions in England and, as most of his securities were registered in Ireland, he was placed under the control of the Court in Ireland in 1929. He was discharged from wardship in 1933. From 1933 until his death he resided at various hotels in London notwithstanding the bombing and other perils of the war. In his will, executed in 1902, he stated that if he should die in Ireland, he desired to be buried in the family burial-place in County Galway, and, after leaving certain pecuniary legacies, he bequeathed a number of charitable legacies to beneficiaries in the neighbourhood of his birth-place.

Held, by the Supreme Court (Sullivan C.J., Murnaghan and Black JJ.; Geoghegan J. dissenting), affirming Overend J., that J. had acquired an English domicil.

Summary Summons.

This summons was brought to determine whether George Joyce, who died in London on the 23rd April, 1944, was at the date of his death domiciled in Ireland or in England, and certain other questions relating to the administration of his estate.

George Joyce was born on the 29th April, 1873, at Corgary House, County Galway, where he lived until 1895, when, owing to unsoundness of mind, he became an inmate of the Stewart Institution, Palmerstown, County Dublin. He remained there for about eighteen months, returning to Corgary House in 1897. Shortly afterwards he emigrated to Canada where he worked on various farms in Manitoba. From correspondence in January, 1901, it appeared that he then contemplated farming in Canada on his own account. In the year 1899 his uncle, John Joyce, died, and George Joyce became entitled to a share in the residue of his estate. Before making payment to him under the will of John Joyce, the executors required him to be medically examined with a view to establishing his capacity to give a valid receipt for his share. He returned to Ireland in 1901 and, after medical examination, received his share of his uncle's estate.

On the 7th August, 1902, he executed his will, in which he stated:—"If I die in Ireland, I desire to be buried in the family place at Corgary." He directed his executor to apply the sum of £100 in having masses said in Ireland for the repose of his soul, and, following certain pecuniary legacies, he bequeathed a number of charitable legacies to beneficiaries in the neighbourhood of Corgary House. He left the residue to his brother, Peter, whom he appointed his sole executor.

In the year 1907 George Joyce went to reside in London, his brother, Walter Joyce, inheriting the property of Corgary House. In January, 1923, Walter Joyce was shot, apparently as a result of some agrarian trouble, and died; in the same month Corgary House was maliciously destroyed by fire. George Joyce remained in London from 1907 until his death on the 23rd April, 1944. He spent about six years of that period—from December, 1927, to June, 1933—at a mental hospital in Surrey and, as most of his securities were registered in Ireland he was, in September, 1929, placed under the control of the Court in this country.

On his discharge from wardship in 1933 he continued to reside in London, opening a bank account with the Camden Town Branch of the National Bank, Limited, and had all his securities transferred to that Bank. On the death of his brother, Peter Joyce, in October, 1941, he succeeded to the life interest in a substantial fund, but he did not return to Ireland in connection with the administration of his brother's estate. He continued to reside in London notwithstanding the conditions there prevailing of bombing, black-out, rationing, and the inconveniences occasioned by the war.

The remaining facts are fully stated in the judgment of Overend J.

The plaintiff, Mary Corbet, as administratrix with the will annexed of the personal estate of the said George Joyce made an affidavit stating that she and her two sisters were his first cousins and his sole next-of-kin, but that he also left him surviving several first cousins once removed.

The Court, having directed that Gertrude Cartwright should be added as a defendant herein, appointed the defendants, Annie Fagan and Gertrude Cartwright, to represent, for the purposes of this matter, the class of persons who, if George Joyce at the date of his death had been domiciled in Ireland, would be entitled to the residue of his personal estate; and the Court appointed the defendant, Josephine Una Miley, to represent the class of persons who, if he had been domiciled in England, would be beneficially entitled to, or interested in, the distribution of his residuary estate.

Overend J. :—

In this case the plaintiff, Mary Corbet, as administratrix, with the will annexed, of George Joyce, has brought a summons to have certain questions determined arising in the administration of his estate. The first and principal question is that of the domicil of the deceased at the date of his death.

George Joyce was born on the 29th April, 1873, at Corgary House, Co. Galway, the family mansion, where he spent his youth. In the year 1895 he became deranged in his mind and had to be placed as an inmate at the Stewart Institute, Palmerstown. He remained there for about eighteen months, when he was discharged, and then returned to Corgary House. Shortly afterwards he left for Canada.

In the year 1899 his uncle, John Joyce, died, having, by his will, left the residue of his property equally between the deceased and his brothers and sisters. When the time came for making payment to the deceased of his share the executors of the will of John Joyce were advised that they should be satisfied as to his sanity and capacity to give a valid receipt for his share. Mr. Edmund Roche Kelly, one of the executors, was in touch with the deceased and informed him that it would be necessary for him to be examined by a medical practitioner in Canada, and this matter is referred to in a letter, dated the 22nd January, 1901, from the deceased to Mr. Kelly, in which he writes as follows:—

"I received yours of the 21st September a few days ago. I was working out south of Brandon all fall and I did not come in to town until the 2nd of last month. I did not know you had written me to Newdale until Walter told me in his letter of 14th November. I left Newdale about the middle of June last. I thought I would try the Brandon district and see what it was like. Last year was a very dry one and farmers did not have good crops at all; in fact, some of them got a little over their seed and that was all. The winter set in on the 12th November, then there was a heavy fall of snow and it has been pretty cold during the latter part of last month. I was thinking of starting for myself soon. I could go on a place and, I think, get everything furnished and put in the crops myself, I would have to get the land ready; then I should give half the crop in the fall. That is the way they do in this country. I think I might try this way first before going on a place of my own or homesteading. What do you think of this proposition? Now, with regard to the medical examination, I think Brandon would be as suitable a place as any. What do you think? However, I will not do anything about it until I hear from Messrs. Roche. As you say, I expect there is an office in Dominion Express in Dublin. I think that is about the best way to send money to this country as there is less brokerage that way. I do not need any for medical exam. as I have got sufficient on hand for that, thank you. Hoping to have a line from you soon."

Now, that seems to me to be a perfectly intelligible and business-like letter; it is an indication, at all events, that at that time he contemplated setting up a farm on his own account in Canada. Some time later the executors were advised that it would be better to have him return to this country for medical examination, and accordingly, on the 18th February, 1901, Messrs. Roche & Sons, solicitors, sent him the following cable:—"Arrange come Dublin execute release get paid legacy wire Roche." He replied by cable on 20th February, 1901:—"Leave here soon take next trip sailing." He returned to Ireland and was examined by Sir Christopher Nixon and Dr. Anthony Roche who found him perfectly sane. He was paid his share of the estate, and in July, 1902, he invested the moneys which he received in £1,000 31/2% India Stock and £1,000 31/4% Dublin Corporation Redeemable Stock.

Having come in for this property, I think I am safe in assuming that he was advised by Messrs. Roche that it would be prudent for him to make a will. On the 7th August, 1902, he made his will, which commences as follows:—"This is the last will and testament of me, George Joyce of Corgary House, Castleblakeney, Ballinasloe, in the County of Galway, Gentleman. If I die in Ireland, I desire to be buried in the family place at Corgary, and wherever I die I direct my...

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