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ZEIGLER ESTATE. (04/19/55)

April 19, 1955

ZEIGLER ESTATE.


Appeal, No. 46, March T., 1955, from decree of Orphans' Court of Beaver County, 1953, No. 192, in Estate of William Zeigler, Deceased. Decree affirmed.

COUNSEL

Daniel M. Evans, with him R. Clifton Hood, for appellant.

Robert L. Orr, with him Clyde Holt and Reed, Ewing & Ray, for appellee.

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

Author: Musmanno

[ 381 Pa. Page 437]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO

This is an appeal from a decree of the Orphans' Court of Beaver County annulling the election of Elizabeth K. Zeigler, widow, to take against the will of her deceased husband, William Zeigler. The circumstances leading up to the litigation are briefly related. In the year 1951, William Zeigler, then 74 years of age, and Elizabeth K. Anderson, 69 years of age, decided to spend their declining years together as man and wife. Each had been previously married and thus knew from experience that the marital relationship has to do with certain matters of finance as much as it has to do with romance. Accordingly they discussed their respective monetary standing and agreed that they would hold on to their individual fortunes and that neither would expect or claim any benefit from the estate of the party who died first. This agreement took the solemn form of a contract entered into on March 21, 1951, in the office of the attorney for William Zeigler. The contract fully disclosed the real and personal property held by both parties, except that Mrs. Anderson did not state that she was receiving at the time social security benefits at the rate of $46.80 per month.

[ 381 Pa. Page 438]

Elizabeth Anderson and William Zeigler married on April 4, 1951. The record does not disclose, nor is it relevant to the disposition of the case, whether the marriage was a happy one or not. It endured only two years, William Zeigler departing this life on May 25, 1953.

When Mrs. Anderson married Zeigler, she was taken off the social security rolls; when he died, she was reinstated but at the rate of only $18.80 per month. Upon her husband's death she filed a petition for family exemption and an election against the will to regain in some manner the financial prop she had now lost. The executor of Zeigler's estate pleaded the antenuptial contract which the Court below decreed was fully binding upon the widow.

Mrs. Zeigler claimed in the Court below, as she does here, that since she was not advised of the effect the remarriage would have upon her social security status, the agreement made is not binding upon her. She admits in her brief that there was no attempt on the part of her husband to mislead her, or that there existed any plan to commit a fraud upon her. In fact she states that "her late husband was a man of honor who intended to treat her fairly." Her complaint is that no one informed her that upon her remarriage she would have to give up the $46.80 per month she was receiving as social security and that upon her husband's death she would receive from that source only $18.80 per month. But there is nothing in the record to show that Zeigler was acquainted with her social security position, since she made no reference to it when outlining her financial resources. At the time the agreement was drafted Zeigler's attorney said to Mrs. Zeigler: "You had better take this contract to an attorney and be advised by him." She replied that she did not need to consult an attorney.

[ 381 Pa. Page 439]

Before the premarital compact was signed, Mr. Zeigler frankly informed his intended spouse that he owned real property in the value of $10,000 and personal property valued at $30,000. She thus knew that if she signed the agreement she gave up her right to any portion of that $40,000. On her part she stated that she owned real property in the value of $8,000 and personal property in the amount of $10,500. It was a simple matter of arithmetic for her to perceive that his worldly goods in the scale of monetary appreciation exceeded hers so that on the basis of an equal quid pro quo she was giving up more than he was, so far as participation in each other's estate was concerned. It probably appeared to her that even with this disparate ...


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