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Testatrix Leaves Her Estate to a Wildlife Sanctuary


This case is being heard in the Suffolk County Court. The matter at hand deals with an application made by the American Museum of Natural History. The application requests a refund of certain taxes that the museum paid under erroneous and illegal assessments that were made.

The American Museum of Natural History is trying to recover certain taxes that they have paid or taxes that were paid on their behalf on certain real property that is located in the Town of Huntington. A New York Probate Lawyer said the refund claim is based on the ground that the property should have been tax exempt under provisions of the Tax Law.

Case Background

The testatrix, Augusta S. Kalbfleisch loved birds and enjoyed her estate, Blyenbeck Farm located in the town of Huntington. She made the estate attractive to the wild life of Long Island. Aware of the fact that she would one day have to leave the estate she made plans in her will to leave the estate along with an endowment fund of $200,000 to the American Museum of Natural History to use as a wild life sanctuary.

When she passed away on the 20th of March, 1956, there were objections brought up in probate about her will. Westchester County Probate Lawyers said the court appointed Hanover Bank as the executor as named in the will. The objections proved to lack merit and were withdrawn and dismissed. The will was admitted for probate on the first of April, 1957 and the premises were turned over to the Museum on the 13th of September, 1957.

The tax issue rises from the fact that the property was not entered on the tax rolls as exempt before the first of June in 1957 and 1958. The petitioner was obliged to pay the Receiver of Taxes for the town of Huntington taxes in the amount of $15,175.11. This is the amount that the petitioner is seeking to have refunded.

Case Discussion

It was stipulated at the time of the hearing that the petitioner is a nonprofit corporation that is organized for public and educational purposes. This is the type of corporation that receives tax exemption. Suffolk County Probate Lawyers said the question left before the court is whether the Museum contemplated the use of the property before the first of June in 1957 and 1958.

The testimony that was offered at the time of the hearing states that the Museum contemplated using the property as a bird and wild life sanctuary in accordance with the wishes of Augusta S. Kalbfleisch immediately after learning that the deceased had left the property to the museum.

The opposition council argues that the Museum was involved in litigation at the title of the property was not absolute until some time in September of 1958 and because of this the Museum is not entitled to tax exemption until the latter date.

Court Decision

The property is currently being used as a Wild Life Sanctuary and there is no question that the Museum had planned for it to be used in such away from the beginning of learning that the property had been left with them. There is no reason to question the intentions and good faith of the Museum and for that reason the petition for a refund should be granted. The court orders that the amount of taxes paid by the museum be returned.

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