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GARRETT ESTATE (01/05/53)

January 5, 1953

IN RE GARRETT ESTATE


Appeals, Nos. 188 to 191, 195, 200, 208, 214 to 219 and 226, Jan. T., 1952, from decree of Orphans' Court of Philadelphia County, 1932, No. 2552, in Estate of Henrietta E. Garrett, Deceased. Decree affirmed; reargument refused February 13, 1953.

COUNSEL

Harry R. Back, with him Back & Levy and H. Jerome Jaspan, for Marsh claimants, appellants.

J. Wray Connolly, with him Moorhead & Knox, for Hoover, claimant, appellant.

Stella J. Platte, in propria persona, claimant, appellant.

Caroline McDonald Wismiller, in propria persona, claimant, appellant.

William H. Schwartz, in propria persona, claimant, appellant.

Mrs. Adele Schwarz Arnold, in propria persona, claimant, appellant.

Henry Schwarz, Jr., in propria persona, claimant, appellant.

Walter Henry Schatz Platte, in propria persona, claimant, appellant.

Maxine K. Platte Schuessler, in propria persona, claimant, appellant.

Ella Schwarz Bott, in propria persona, claimant, appellant.

Walter H. Schwarz, in propria persona, claimant, appellant.

Arthur R. Schor, with him Rowland F. Kirks, Gerald A. Greeson, Thomas H. Creighton, Jr., and Howard H. Yocum, for Attorney General of the United States, etc., et al., appellees.

Percival H. Granger, Counsel, and Harry F. Stambaugh, Special Counsel, with them Harry T. Devine and Joseph X. Yaffe, Assistant Counsel and Robert E. Woodside, Attorney General, for claimant, appellee.

Before Stern, C.j., Jones, Bell and Musmanno, JJ.

Author: Per Curiam

[ 372 Pa. Page 440]

OPINION PER CURIAM

Henrietta E. Garrett died a resident of Philadelphia County on November 16, 1930, intestate as to her residuary estate of over $17,000,000. Nearly 26,000 claims were filed in the Court below by persons claiming the estate as next of kin. The Orphans' Court appointed a Master and Examiners who held some 2,000 hearings and took the testimony of over 1,100 witnesses. The record composed mainly of testimony and exhibits, totals 390 volumes covering over 115,000 pages. After a painstaking examination of the thousands of claims which were presented, the Master submitted to the Orphans' Court on September 18, 1950, a 900 page report which included 2,077 findings of fact and 36 conclusions of law. The Master found that the decedent, Henrietta E. Garrett, nee Schaeffer, was survived by three first cousins, Herman Adolph Kretschmar, Howard Sigismund Kretschmar and Johann Peter

[ 372 Pa. Page 441]

Christian Schaefer I, and that these relatives were entitled, as next of kin, to her estate under the Intestate Act of June 7, 1917, P.L. 429.

Judge KLEIN, who sat as Auditing Judge in the Orphans' Court, adopted all of the findings of fact and all of the conclusions of law found or made by the Master (except one which is immaterial in the determination of this appeal); his adjudication covering 369 pages was confirmed absolutely by the Orphans' Court on January 10, 1952; the schedule of distribution filed pursuant to the adjudication was approved on January 31, 1952.

On June 30, 1952, all the appeals to this Court as of the above term and numbers were consolidated for the purpose of argument and disposition. What is said hereinafter in this Opinion will apply in general to all the appeals, although each appeal will be very briefly discussed seriatim.

The Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania vigorously contended for 15 years that Henrietta E. Garrett died without leaving any next of kin to survive her and consequently her residuary estate escheated to the Commonwealth. Thereafter a compromise was executed which in effect recognized that the three above named persons were first cousins and next of kin of Henrietta E. Garrett. The compromise agreement was approved by the Attorney General of Pennsylvania, the Governor of Pennsylvania, the Auditor General and the Assistant Secretary of Revenue of Pennsylvania and the Attorney General of the United States.

The findings of the Master adopted by the Court satisfied everyone except 26,000 disappointed claimants. It is therefore not surprising to find, 22 years after the death of Henrietta E. Garrett, that some persons still sincerely believe that they are entitled to her estate as

[ 372 Pa. Page 442]

    next of kin and cannot understand how any Court can fail to recognize their close relationship to their dear and treasured Henrietta whom they never saw or knew but of whom they have recently become so fond.

In view of all the foregoing facts, the burden of proving any claim at this late date must in fairness and justice be a heavy one for, unlike Tennyson's brook, ...


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