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WEST v. WATKINS (ET AL. (06/10/59)

June 10, 1959

WEST
v.
WATKINS (ET AL., APPELLANT).



Appeal, No. 128, Oct. T., 1959, from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County, Sept. T., 1957, No. 3, in case of Arlene B. West et al. v. William Watkins, administrator c.t.a. of the estate of Catherine Brigham et al. Decree affirmed.

COUNSEL

Willard M. Henkelman, with him Joseph C. Kreder, and Warren, Hill, Henkelman & McMenamin, for appellant.

Thomas M. Hart, with him Maurice V. Cummings and Leo A. Southard, for appellees.

Before Rhodes, P.j., Hirt, Gunther, Wright, Woodside, Ervin, and Watkins, JJ.

Author: Gunther

[ 190 Pa. Super. Page 31]

OPINION BY GUNTHER, J.

This appeal is from the decree of the court below in which the validity of a mortgage on real estate was questioned by an action in equity and in which the mortgage was held void in part. The unusual facts may be summarized as follows:

Eugene Brigham and Catherine Brigham held themselves out publicly as husband and wife from the year 1924 to November, 1949. During this period, they purportedly lived together under a common law marriage. However, each of the parties at the time were married to other individuals who were still living and undivorced. During this meretricious relationship, on August 26, 1949, they acquired title to a piece of real estate, and the deed purportedly conveyed title to them as tenants by the entireties. Simultaneously with the acquisition of title, having secured a mortgage loan from the Citizens Savings and Loan Association, they executed a bond and mortgage in the amount of $4,250.00 covering the property acquired. The borrowers represented themselves to be husband and wife, and the mortgagee honestly and innocently relied on such representations.

On November 13, 1949, Eugene Brigham died intestate, leaving to survive him as his heirs and next of kin four children, appellees herein, who became the owners of an undivided one-half interest in the real estate involved. No letters of administration were taken out on the estate of Eugene Brigham. At the time of

[ 190 Pa. Super. Page 32]

    his death, there was a balance of $2,726.28 due on the mortgage on which Catherine Brigham continued to make installment payments until her death on May 6, 1954. At that time, the mortgage balance had been reduced to $671.81. Upon her death, she left surviving her lawful husband, Benjamin Watkins, and some sisters and a brother. These persons were not parties to the action in the court below.

On June 15, 1954, William Watkins, falsely holding himself out as the son of Catherine Watkins Brigham, probated a paper purporting to be the Last Will and Testament of Catherine Brigham, in which the real estate, inter alia, was devised to her alleged son, William Watkins. Letters of administration c.t.a. were thereupon issued to William Watkins. The will was forged by William Watkins after the death of Catherine Watkins Brigham, and William was not her son. These facts were known and subsequently admitted by William Watkins, but were not known either by the Register of Wills or the mortgagee. On August 30, 1954, William Watkins, as administrator c.t.a. of the Estate of Catherine Brigham, presented a petition to the Orphans' Court of Lackawanna County, seeking authority to borrow $5,000.00 for the payment of debts of the decedent. On the same day, an order was entered authorizing him to borrow said sum and to execute and deliver a bond and mortgage on the real estate here involved. Additional bond in the sum of $2,000.00 was ordered to be posted.

Subsequently, based upon a bond and mortgage previously executed by Watkins in his individual and fiduciary capacity, the appellant, Citizens Savings and Loan Association, granted the loan in the amount of $5,000.00. The proceeds of the loan were used to pay off the balance still due on the ...


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