Mr. Uhl to Baron Fava.
Washington, May 24, 1894.
Excellency: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of the 20th instant, proposing that the consuls of Italy in the United States be authorized, as you state U. S. consuls already are in Italy, to settle the estates of their deceased fellow countrymen after being notified of their demise by the local authorities. You suggest that this be done with the view of preventing such irregularities as were referred to in your note of the 3d instant, relating to the estate of Rafaele Pisani, at Brownsville, Tex.
In reply, I beg to say that the United States has never entered into any treaty granting to the consuls of foreign countries, in this country, such authority as that you suggest should be given to the consuls of Italy. The entire question of the administration, settlement, and distribution of decedent’s estates in this country is under the control of the respective States. It is for this reason that the Federal Government encounters special difficulty in procuring notice to be given by the local authorities to the consuls of Italy of the death of their fellow countrymen.
The difficulty is increased by the fact that the local courts where estates are administered are frequently remote from the place where the nearest consular officer is stationed. For example, in the vast territory covered by the State of Texas the only consular officer of the Italian Government is located at Galveston.
These considerations compel me, though with much regret, to dissent from the opinion entertained by you that the Italian consuls should, by international agreement, be given the authority you desire for them.
I may observe, however, that I think it highly probable the local courts of the States, in cases where foreigners die within their jurisdiction intestate and without heirs or creditors, would, upon application of the consul of the decedent’s country, residing in their jurisdiction, grant him the administration of the estate.