Agency is terminated by the death of the principal.41 And the death of the agent, of course, terminates his agency. No notice of the death of the principal is necessary to relieve his estate of responsibility.42
"The question is not new, and it has been uniformly answered by our decisions to the effect that the death of the principal puts an end to the agency, and, therefore, is an instantaneous and unqualified revocation of the authority of the agent. 2 Kent's Com. 646; Hunt v. Rousmanier, 8 Wheat. 174. There can be no agent where there is no principal. There are, no doubt, exceptions to the rule, as where the agency is coupled with an interest (Knapp v. Alvord, 10 Paige, 205; 40 Am. Dec. 241; Hunt v. Eousmanier, supra; Hess v. Rau, 95 N. Y. 359), or where the principal was a firm and only one of its members died. Bank v. Vanderhorst, 32 N. Y. 553. But both cases recognize the general rule to be as above stated. In Davis v. Windsor Savings Bank, 46 Vt. 728, the rule was applied. The defendant paid money to the agent after the death of his principal, but in ignorance of it, and the administrator of the deceased recovered.
40 Story on Agency, Sec. 481. See also Matthiesen & W. Refining Co. v. MacMahon, 38 N. J. Law 536. (The Merritt case is again reported on a subsequent trial, in 32 Misc. (N. Y.) 21; aff'd, without opinion. 62 App. Div. (N. Y.) 617.)
41 Farmers' L. & T. Co. v. Wilson, 139 N. Y. 284 (1893).
42 George on Partnership, 258, and cases there cited; Weber v. Bridgman, 113 N. Y. 600 (1889).
"It is quite unnecessary to go through the cases on this subject. The rule at common law which determines the authority of an agent by the death of his principal is well settled, and no notice is necessary to relieve the estate of the principal of responsibility, even on contracts into which the agent had entered with third persons who were ignorant of his death. Those who deal. with an agent are held to assume the risk that his authority may be terminated by death without notice to them. This rule was established in England (Leake Cont. 487), although now modified by statute, and is generally applied in this country.43 In some States alterations have been made by statute; and, following the civil law, it was held in Pennsylvania,44 that the acts of an agent or attorney, done after the death of his principal, of which he was ignorant, are binding upon the parties. This was, however, in opposition to the current of authority. 1 Bars. Cont., 71; 2 Kent's Com. 646." 45
As will be seen,46 one of the requisites entitling a broker to commission is "good faith." Where the broker commits a fraud on his principal he has, of course, failed to observe good faith and cannot claim his commission. "When an agent abandons the object of his agency and acts for himself by committing a fraud for his own exclusive benefit, he ceases to act within the scope of his employment and to that extent ceases to act as agent." 47
43 Citing Story on Agency. Sec. 488; Pars. Cont.. Vol. 1. p. 71; 2 Kent's Com. (12th Ed.). 645, 646.
44 Cassiday v. McKenzie. 4 Watts & Serg. 282; 39 Am. Dec. 76.
45 Weber v. Bridgman. 113 X. Y. 600 (1889).
46 Sec. 60 supra et seq. and Ch. XIII infra.
47 Henry v. Allen, 151 N. Y. 1 (1896); 36 L. E. A. 658, (citing Shipman v. Bank of New York, 126 N. T. 318; 12 L. R. A. 791; Welsh v. G. A. Bank. 73 N. Y. 424, 29 Am. Rep. 175; Allen v. So. Boston R. Co., 150 Mass. 200; 5 L. R. A. 716). See also Benedict v. Arnoux, 154 N. Y. 715 (1897); Blenenstock v. Ammidown, 155 N. Y. 47 (1898). See also Sec. 59-71 supra.
When one has constituted or accredited another his agent, the authority of the agent continues, even after an actual revocation, until notice of the revocation has been given.48 Notice of revocation of the agency is governed by the same rules as notice of the dissolution of a partnership.49
48 Claflin v.Lenhelm, 66 N. Y. 305 (1876); Blelenberg v. Montana U. R. Co., 2 L. R. A. 813 (1888).
49 Claflin v. Lenheim, supra. But see Sec. 92 supra.