In re Estate of Martineau
126 N.H. 250, 490 A.2d 779 (1985)

  • Martineau died leaving no will (intestate). There was no living spouse, children (issue), parents, or siblings.
    • Surviving relatives included an uncle and a bunch of cousins from various deceased uncles/aunts.
  • The Trial Court looked to New Hampshire State law to divvy up the estate.
    • 50% went to the maternal relatives, and 50% went to the paternal relatives
    • On the maternal side, there were no surviving aunts/uncles, so all the cousins on that side split their 50% equally.
    • On the paternal side, the court gave equal shares of the 50% to the surviving uncle and each of the cousins from dead (aka predeceased) uncles and aunts.
      • aka the per capita approach.
  • The uncle appealed the decision, claiming that he had batter right to the paternal 50% than the paternal cousins.
    • The uncle argued that cousins have no right to take a share via their representation of their predeceased parents, so the only person who should get a share was the surviving uncle.
      • Basically, the uncle was arguing that the Court should use the next of kin approach, and that the shares to his siblings had lapsed due to their deaths.
  • The New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed.
    • The uncle had argued that there were some inconsistencies in New Hampshire State law regarding the right to people to inherit by representation. The New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed that there were inconsistencies, but felt that the cousins could inherit via representation despite those inconsistencies.