Appeals, Nos. 380, 381, 382 and 383, Jan. T., 1958, from decree of Orphans' Court of Luzerne County, No. 1352 of 1957, in re estate of Edward J. Ackerman, deceased. Decree reversed.
William A. Valentine, for appellants.
Andrew Hourigan, Jr., with him George A. Spohrer, for appellee.
Before Jones, C.j., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen and Mcbride, JJ.
OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO
On October 16, 1944, Edward J. Ackerman, while apparently on a visit to the bank of the South Side Bank and Trust Company in Scranton, picked up a deposit slip and wrote on its reverse side the following: "Oct. 6, 1944 I Edward J. Ackerman wishes at the time of my death that everything excepted Two Thousand Dollars should go to Helen Schmeig the rest to the Ackerman Trust Estate.Edward J. Ackerman."
On October 31, 1957, he died, without anyone seeming to know of the existence of this paper. Letters of administration were issued to his widow, Helen Ackerman. Later the paper was found in Ackerman's safety deposit box in the same bank where it had been written, and the widow now petitioned the Register of Wills of Orphans' Court to admit the paper to probate as the last will and testament of her late husband. The Register of Wills did so admit the paper and granted letters testamentary C.T.A. to Mrs. Ackerman.
In addition to his widow, Ackerman left three brothers and a sister, namely, George Ackerman, Frank Ackerman, Irving Ackerman and Mrs. Marie Schmieg. These four blood relatives filed a petition with the Orphans' Court of Luzerne County asking that a citation be awarded to Mrs. Ackerman to show cause why the decree admitting to probate the Ackerman writing
as the last will and testament of Edward Ackerman should not be set aside.
When the petition came on for argument in the Orphans' Court of Luzerne County, counsel for the three brothers and sisters and counsel for the widow Helen Ackerman stipulated that if the court sustained the probate, it should construe the will as though the court were entertaining a petition for declaratory judgment. The court did construe the will and arrived at the conclusion that Ackerman intended to leave his entire estate to Helen Schmeig, with the exception of a $2,000 legacy to the Ackerman Trust.
The brothers and sisters contested this construction and appealed to this Court, averring that the Ackerman will was misread by the court below; that the will was never intended to leave the entire estate, minus $2,000, to Helen Schmeig, but that, on the contrary, it gave the corpus of the estate to the Ackerman Trust, minus $2,000 to Helen ...