Appeal by Lacy Dickey, executor of the will of L. F. Troxler, deceased, from Armstrong, J., February 23 Civil Term, 1959, of Guilford, Greensboro Division.
It is clearly apparent that the rulings of the court below to which the executor excepts are not adverse to the interests of the L. F. Troxler estate, but are adverse to Lacy Dickey, individually, and the other residuary legatee and devisee. In the trial below the executor contended, and contends here, that the lapsed devises and legacies of R. L. Summers should not go intestate, but should go to the surviving residuary legatees and devisees, namely, Lacy Dickey and Grover O. Dickey. He further contends that if they do go intestate, that the debts and costs of administration should be paid from the intestate estate and not from the cash. A reversal of the rulings excepted to would benefit Lacy Dickey, individually, and not the estate he represents as executor. The parties adversely affected by the judgment, Lacy Dickey, individually, and Grover O. Dickey, did not appeal, and we must conclude that they are satisfied with the judgment.
The following question arises: Is the executor a party aggrieved so as to give him the right to appeal in this case? It is true that the appellees have made no motion to dismiss on the ground that the executor is not a party aggrieved. But where it appears that the appellant is not a party aggrieved, the questions raised by the appeal are not in controversy so far as the litigation is concerned, no jurisdiction of any matter to which the action relates is conferred by the appeal, and this Court will ex mero motu dismiss the appeal. In Langley v. Gore, 242 N.C. 302, 87 S.E.2d 519, the appellants asserted that they did not claim a fund in the hands of the clerk of the Superior Court but had appealed on the ground that they did not think the appellees were entitled to it. Speaking to the subject, the Court said: "Any party aggrieved may appeal in the cases prescribed in Chapter 1 of General Statutes entitled 'Civil Procedure.' G.S. 1-271. And this Court, in interpreting and applying this statute, has uniformly held that only the party aggrieved may appeal from the Superior Court to the Supreme
Court. See Watkins v. Grier, 224 N.C. 339, 30 S.E.2d 223, and numerous other cases. Therefore, we are constrained to hold that by this appeal this Court has not acquired jurisdiction of any matter to which the action or proceeding may relate. Such being the case, the Court is impelled ex mero motu to dismiss the appeal for want of jurisdiction. See Henderson County v. Smyth, 216 N.C. 421, 5 S.E.2d 136, where prior cases are cited. See also Baker v. Varser, 239 N.C. 180, 79 S.E.2d 757, and cases cited."
It is true that this action was brought under the Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act, General Statutes of North Carolina, Chapter 1, Article 26, sections 1-253 to 1-267, inclusive. The pertinent portion of G.S. 1-255 provides that "Any person interested as . . . an executor . . . in the administration of the estate of a decedent . . . may have a declaration of rights or legal relations in respect thereto: (a) To ascertain any class of creditors, devisees, legatees, heirs, next of kin or others; or (b) To direct the executors, administrators, or trustees to do or abstain from doing any particular act in their fiduciary capacity; or (c) To determine any question arising in the administration of the estate or trust, including questions of construction of wills and other writings."
There is no doubt that the executor had the right to institute the action and ask for a declaration in the first instance. Trust Co. v. Henderson, 226 N.C. 649, 39 S.E.2d 804. The question is whether he may now appeal from a judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction which has declared his rights and duties and interpreted the will in such manner that the testator's estate is not adversely affected. G.S. 1-258, which is a part of the Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act, provides that "All orders, judgments and decrees under this article may be reviewed as other orders, judgments and decrees." Obviously the act does not enlarge the right of an executor for a review, but provides for review under the same rules that apply in cases not brought pursuant to the act.
Under the decisions of this Court, interpreting G.S. 1-271, only a party aggrieved may appeal to the Supreme Court. Langley v. Gore, supra, and cases there cited; 1 N.C. Index (Strong) page 76. "A party aggrieved is one whose right has been directly and injuriously affected by the action of the court." McIntosh, N.C. Prace. and Proc. in Civil Cases, pp. 767-8; Freeman v. Thompson, 216 N.C. 484, 5 S.E.2d 434.
"As a general rule, a personal representative can appeal in his representative capacity only when he is aggrieved in that capacity, and not when he is aggrieved in his individual capacity only. In the latter
case he must appeal, if at all, in his individual capacity. He cannot appeal individually if he is aggrieved in his representative capacity only. . . . An executor or administrator may not secure review of a judgment, order or decree merely determining the rights as between the parties entitled to the estate or distributing the estate or a part thereof among heirs, next of kin, devisees, or legatees where the court had jurisdiction, unless there are exceptional circumstances taking the case out of the general rule, . . ." 4 C.J.S., Appeal and Error, Section 193b and e, pp. 583-585.
Where there is a controversy between legatees under a will, in which controversy the executor, as such, has no interest, such executor is not a party aggrieved by a decree of distribution and may not appeal ...