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HANNA ESTATE. (11/08/54)

THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


November 8, 1954

HANNA ESTATE.

Appeal, No. 239, March T., 1954, from decree of Orphans' Court of Westmoreland County, May T., 1953, No. 104, in Estate of Mary Hanna, Deceased. Decree reversed. Proceeding upon petition of legatees for citation upon administratrix c.t.a. of deceased executor and trustee to show cause why an account should not be filed. Before COPELAND, P.J. Decree entered refusing petition. Petitioners appealed.

COUNSEL

Thomas L. Wentling, with him Robert H. Rial and Patterson, Crawford, Arensberg & Dunn, for appellants.

John J. Laffey, with him John S. Van Kirk, for appellee.

Before Stern, C.j., Stearne, Jones, Chidsey, Musmanno and Arnold, JJ.

Author: Stearne

[ 379 Pa. Page 136]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE ALLEN M. STEARNE

[ 379 Pa. Page 137]

The orphans' court, on the ground of laches, dismissed a petition for citation on the administratrix c.t.a. of the estate of a deceased executor to show cause why she should not file an account of the administration by the executor of the estate of his decedent. An appeal has been taken by remaindermen of the trust created under the will.

Mary Hanna, the testatrix, died July 5, 1921. By her will her residuary estate was devised and bequeathed to H. H. Hanna, in trust, to pay the net income to her sister, Martha E. Hanna, for life, and upon her decease to her sister-in-law, Margaret Hanna, for life, and upon her death to testatrix's brother Thomas for life. Upon the death of the survivor of the life tenants, the fiduciary was directed to transfer one-half of named mining stock, or if sold, one-half of the proceeds thereof in cash, to Josie M. Williams, one-fourth to niece, Mary A. Hanna, and the remaining one-fourth to niece, Margaret Hanna. The residue was directed to be paid to lawful descendants of her brother Thomas.

It appears from the record that an inventory was filed in 1922. No account, either as executor or trustee, has ever been filed. On March 30, 1933, T. W. Hanna, a legatee, cited H. H. Hanna, the executor and trustee, to file an account, and on April 27, 1933, the citation was made absolute. The fiduciary respondent died September 13, 1952. On May 27, 1953, a citation was issued against Hazel Peacock Russell, administratrix c.t.a. of the estate of H. H. Hanna, the executor and trustee of testatrix's estate, to show cause why she should not file an account of the administration of the estate by such fiduciary. An answer was filed by the respondent charging laches and averring that "there was a family settlement and by agreement, all the assets of the estate were distributed to the heirs."

[ 379 Pa. Page 138]

A hearing was held by the orphans' court. The petition for citation was dismissed in an opinion by the court.

The reasons assigned by the orphans' court for dismissing the petition, as stated in the opinion, are that by depositions of two of the heirs the children of Thomas W. Hanna decided "in 1933 to not press for a final settlement"; that about that time "some of the heirs" received named sums of money and a traction bond; that "one of the heirs" received such a bond and "$15.00 a month for five years"; that in 1942 the Secretary of Banking compromised a judgment against the executor of decedent's estate and that the petitioners are guilty of gross laches which bar their rights to an accounting.

Our examination of the record convinces us that the findings and conclusions of the auditing judge are not sufficiently supported. The last successive life tenant died in 1930. The inventory filed in 1922 showed assets of over $18,000. The principal asset, it is alleged, was a one-half interest in a personal bond given by the executor to decedent. The assets also included shares of preferred and common stock of a coal company. If, in 1933, a family settlement was made and all assets distributed, it is not disclosed with what fund the fiduciary settled a claim against the estate with the Secretary of Banking in 1942. As we read the depositions, it is by no means clear that all parties in interest joined in a family agreement or settlement. By the opinion "some of the heirs" received money or assets, but nothing is said about what the others received.

Where the existence of a trust is conceded, as it is here, a beneficiary does not lose his interest by lapse of time, however great: Schulz Estate, 374 Pa. 459, 467, 98 A.2d 176. The case cited by the lower court, and apparently relied upon for its decision, is Cannon's

[ 379 Pa. Page 139]

Mary Hanna's estate, or the existence of a family settlement by all parties in interest.

Disposition

The decree of the court below is reversed. Costs to abide the event.

19541108

© 1998 VersusLaw Inc.



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