Appeals, Nos. 44 and 49, March T., 1951, from decree of Orphans' Court of Greene County, Dec. T., 1949, No. 63, in Estate of Gertrude Southard Pochron, deceased. Decree affirmed.
W. Robert Thompson, with him Waychoff, Maxwell & Waychoff, Smith, Marion & Balaban, Montgomery, Thompson & Baily and Ray, Coldren & Buck, for appellants.
Chad L. John, with him J. R. Scott, for appellee.
Before Drew, C.j., Stern, Stearne, Jones, Bell, Ladner and Chidsey, JJ.
OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE ALLEN M. STEARNE
In a will contest a college and an engineers' society, beneficiaries in a will of decedent, charge that decedent's name was forged to a writing which is a republication of decedent's earlier will, devising and bequeathing the entire estate to her surviving husband. All three writings were presented to the Register of Wills for probate and were certified to the Orphans' Court of Greene County under sec. 18 of the Register of Wills Act of June 7, 1917 P.L. 415, 20 PS 1981. The case was heard by President Judge MATTHEWS of the Orphans' Court of Fayette County, specially presiding. The hearings consumed over seven days. The printed record consists of 744 pages. The learned hearing judge made an exhaustive analysis of the evidence, which relieves us from a detailed recital of the circumstances leading up to and bearing upon the present litigation. The issue resolves itself to the single question whether decedent's signature to the paper of November 19, 1949 (republishing the earlier will of July 2, 1947) was forged, Judge MATTHEWS decreed that no substantial dispute upon a material matter of fact was shown to exist, and directed the probate of both papers as the last will and testament of decedent. These appeals followed.
Gertrude Southard Pochron, the testatrix, died November 21, 1949, survived by a husband, John W. Pochron, but no issue. Her estate, consisting of real and personal property said to be valued at about $80,000, had been inherited from her former husband, Claude F.
Southard, who died in 1936. On August 3, 1946, testatrix married proponent. The record does not disclose her precise age but it was then estimated by her physician to be at least seventy at the date of remarriage. Proponent, then a lieutenant (junior grade) in the United States Navy, was twenty-three. They gave their ages at the Maryland Marriage License Bureau as twenty-three and forty-five.
We are in entire accord with the hearing judge that it would serve no useful purpose to narrate in detail the various wills and codicil executed by decedent and the varying reasons for changing them, up to and including the date of her second marriage in August 1946. On July 2, 1947 decedent executed a professionally drawn witnessed will under which she directed the erection of a monument, devised and bequeathed the residue of the estate to proponent absolutely, and named him sole executor. No question is raised regarding this document.
On October 26, 1948 decedent executed another will in which she provided for her burial and a monument; gave a diamond ring to a named stenographer in the office of her former attorney; divided the residue of her estate between the Waynesburg College and Engineers' Society of Western Pennsylvania and named her former attorney executor. It is this document which the surviving husband charged was obtained through undue influence.We agree with the hearing judge that the record is wholly devoid of evidence, sufficient in quality, to support the grant of an ...