John S. Lightcap, Latrobe, for appellant.
Glen N. Machesney, Greensburg, for appellee.
Before Rhodes, P. J., and Hirt, Reno, Dithrich, Ross, Arnold and Gunther, JJ.
[ 169 Pa. Super. Page 360]
George A. Seiler, alias dictus G. A. Seiler, a resident of Unity Township, Westmoreland County, died intestate on July 11, 1949. Letters of administration were duly issued to George L. Seiler who, on August 15, 1950, filed his final account. At the audit of the account in the Orphans' Court of Westmoreland County, Katherine M. Weis presented a claim for $2250 for nursing services rendered for decedent over a period of 45 weeks, from September 1, 1948 to July 11, 1949.
[ 169 Pa. Super. Page 361]
The court below allowed the claim and dismissed exceptions to the allowance filed by Edward G. Seiler, heir at law of decedent, and he took this appeal.
The claimant and the decedent lived on neighboring farms. They were not related. The decedent's last illness began in September of 1948 and its nature made his care not only a difficult task, but a most unpleasant one. Claimant proved that she performed this task throughout the period for which she seeks compensation by the testimony of Frank Weis, her brother, Dr. J. F. Lechman, decedent's physician, and Dr. B. F. Ober, a friend of the decedent. The doctors were agreed that the value of the services performed by the claimant for the decedent was $50 a week.
In seeking a reversal of the decree of the court below, the appellant relies solely on the presumption of periodic payments and contends that no sufficient evidence was presented to rebut the presumption. That the presumption of periodic payment applies to nursing services is beyond dispute, In re Gilbraith's Estate, 270 Pa. 288, 113 A. 361; In re Braden's Estate, 363 Pa. 42, 68 A.2d 734; Bemis et ux. v. Van Pelt, Ex'r, 139 Pa. Super. 282, 11 A.2d 499; and, while the presumption is rebuttable In re Snively Estate, 154 Pa. Super. 437, 36 A.2d 193, it cannot be overcome by 'vague and uncertain testimony, concerning loose declarations by the decedent of an intention to generously reward those about [him]' In re Braden's Estate, supra; In re Collins' Estate, 83 Pa. Super. 31.
It is true that claims which could have been made against a decedent during his lifetime are viewed with the greatest suspicion when not presented until after his death, In re Monson's Estate, 160 Pa. Super. 631, 53 A.2d 909, and cases cited therein, for otherwise 'no decedent's estate would be safe from spoilation' In re Braden's Estate, supra, [363 Pa. 42, 68 A.2d 736]. We must not, however, blindly pursue this policy to the detriment of persons who
[ 169 Pa. Super. Page 362]
have faithfully served a decedent in his hour of greatest need. To view such claims with suspicion is just and expedient; to impose an impossible burden upon the claimant is unconscionable. To require direct evidence to rebut the presumption of periodic payment is a reasonable precautionary requirement for the protection of a decedent's estate from the raids of unscrupulous ...