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EVANS v. MCCLELLAN

July 22, 1955

Fay Haupt Metcalf EVANS, Plaintiff,
v.
George McCLELLAN, Lidah M. Haupt, and Charles 'Ben' Haupt, as Executors and Trustees of the Estate of G. Edward Haupt, Deceased, and doing business as 'Ed Haupt Real Estate Fund'; and Lidah M. Haupt, individually, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: FOLLMER

The plaintiff, Fay Haupt Metcalf Evans, filed a complaint against the executors and trustees of the Estate of G. Edward Haupt, deceased, *fn1" alleging, inter alia, that she is entitled to certain interests in that estate as a niece and heir at law of the decedent; that the said G. Edward Haupt died April 24, 1953, testate, a resident of Centre County, Pennsylvania, in this judicial district; that his will and the codicil thereto were duly admitted to probate in said Centre County.

From the pleadings and affidavits filed in the case it further appears that the executors and trustees qualified, proceeded with and are still engaged in the process of liquidating the estate; that a partial inventory and appraisement was filed with the Register of Wills of Centre County December 14, 1953; that decedent's widow filed in said Court an election to take against the will; that the executors and trustees have filed a first account in the Orphans' Court of Centre County; that an Auditor has been appointed by that Court to take testimony and report to the Court his findings on the exceptions filed to the account; that these exceptions raise many of the issues comprehended herein.

 Plaintiff predicates her claim as an heir of the decedent upon the theory that her name had originally been included in the decedent's will and then had been stricken out, either after the execution of the will or under such circumstances as to nullify the deletion.

 Plaintiff complains that the executors and trustees have improperly sold real estate; have sold valuable personal property without authority and without notice to plaintiff, some of which was sold to trustees; continue to hold nonlegal securities; failed in December 1953 to set apart distribution then to be made; and that they have entered into collateral agreements with one of the trustees to pay her sums of money without order of court, and without notice.

 Defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint for the following reasons:

 1. Complaint fails to state a claim against defendants upon which relief can be granted.

 2. This Court is without jurisdiction of the subject matter since the complaint involves the interpretation of a will and the administration of a decedent's estate by executors appointed by the Register of Wills of Centre County, Pennsylvania, which executors are answerable only to the said Orphans' Court, which Court has sole and exclusive jurisdiction over said fiduciaries, the administration by them of said estate, the interpretation of the will and the distribution thereunder. Further, that said Court has assumed said jurisdiction, has issued Orders and Decrees in connection therewith, and the administration of said estate is being conducted in pursuance of the directions of said Court, and in accordance with the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

 3. This Court lacks jurisdiction to grant an injunction to stay proceedings in the Orphans' Court of Centre County by reason of the provisions of the Act of Congress of June 25, 1948, c. 646, 62 Stat. 968, 28 U.S.C. § 2283.

 This decedent died April 24, 1953. The original complaint was filed October 15, 1954, the amended complaint on February 15, 1955. In the meantime, and prior to the filing of the original complaint, the will was probated; the executors and trustees qualified; inventory was filed; decedent's widow elected to take against the will; executors' first account was filed; exceptions taken thereto raising many of the questions posed herein; an Auditor was appointed; testimony was taken in re the exceptions, and the parties in interest are now awaiting the Auditor's findings; substantial payments have been made on account of State and Federal transfer inheritance taxes; guardian ad litem appointed for 110 minors and trustee ad litem for all unborn and unascertained persons; public sale of a large amount of real estate has been had and Federal Estate Tax Return has been filed.

 Under the provisions of the Pennsylvania Orphans' Court Act of 1951, August 10, P.L. 1163, Article III, Section 301, 20 Pa.P.S. § 2080.301, the Orphans' Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction, inter alia, of decedents' estates, testamentary trusts, fiduciaries, disposition of title to real estate to render it freely alienable, and title to personal property.

 As to whether or not this plaintiff is a party in interest and as such entitled to be heard in any court in relation to this estate depends solely and exclusively upon the interpretation of the decedent's will. She has no claim as an heir of the decedent unless she can establish by such interpretation that (1) it was her name that was deleted in the third from the last line of the first page of this will, and that (2) such deletion is a nullity.

 The properly constituted fiduciaries of this estate have proceeded in great detail with the administration of a very complex and confused situation. On their qualification they assumed control of large holdings of realty and personalty and have, it would seem, by the filing of their first and partial account and the submission of exceptions thereto to an Auditor appointed by the Orphans' Court of Centre County, moved with as much dispatch and under the direction of the said Court as could be expected under the circumstances. Certainly their administration is in rem. From the time of the appointment and ...


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