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PRUNER ESTATE (06/30/60)

June 30, 1960

PRUNER ESTATE


Appeal, No. 45, Jan. T., 1960, from order of Orphans' Court of Centre County, Estate No. 7555, in the matter of estate of Edmund J. Pruner, deceased. Order reversed; reargument refused August 8, 1960.

COUNSEL

John G. Love, with him John Russell, Jr., Love & Wilkinson, and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, for appellant.

Benjamin C. Jones, with him Musser W. Gettig, for appellees.

Ralph S. Snyder, Deputy Attorney General, with him Anne X. Alpern, Attorney General, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Before Jones, C.j., Bell, Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Bok and Eagen, JJ.

Author: Bell

[ 400 Pa. Page 631]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE BELL.

Edmund J. Pruner died May 4, 1904, testate. In the pertinent portion of his will he provided: "For the purpose of benefiting Humanity and caring for those in need I give and bequeath in Trust to the Corporation of Tyrone and the Corporation of Bellefonte, Pa. The Old Homestead which I own at Bellefonte, Pa. for a Home for Friendless Children from the Towns of Tyrone and Bellefonte. the Home to be called the E J Pruner Home for Friendless children and for the purpose of Endowing said Home I bequeath In Trust forever to the Corporation of the Borough of Tyrone and the Corporation of the Borough of Bellefonte Pa the Brick Building on Penna Avenue near Juniata River known as the Pruner Block and also the Block corner Penna Avenue & 11th street known as the Hoover Block and also my land in the State of North Dakota and my land in State of Kansas and my land in Taylor Worth & Rush Township Centre Co Pa for the purpose of an Endowment to said School the children sent to said Home are not to be under five years of age and when they arrive at 12 years of age places are to be obtained for them By the Board of Managers of the

[ 400 Pa. Page 632]

Home When there is an excess of Revenue for the support of Friendless Children from the Towns of Tyrone and Bellefonte then Friendless children can be admitted from Altoona Pa. It is distinctly to be understood that this Home is not to be a Home for Pauper Children but for children who have no Parents. I appoint the Fidelity Trust and Safe Deposit Co of Phila my Executor and to Carry out the provisions of this will."

The Codicils are couched in the following language: "Should there be any Reasons why the Borough of Tyrone and the Borough of Bellefonte Cannot Carry out the provisions of this will then the property for said Home is bequeathed to my niece Sallie M. Hayes. E. J. Pruner. As I have stated on page 8th of this will should there exist any Reasons why the Borough of Tyrone and the Borough of Bellefonte Cannot Carry out the provisions of this will in relation to the Home for Friendless Children then the Property that was bequeathed to the Borough of Tyrone and Borough of Bellefonte for the purpose of a Home if such becomes invalidated from any cause then said Real Estate - is bequeathed absolutely to my Niece Sallie M. Hayes - of Bellefonte Pa and all legacies that may Revert back to Estate of E. J. Pruner are for the benefit of the Home for Friendless Children provided said Borough of Tyrone and Borough of Bellefonte can Carry out the provisions of the Will and if they cannot then all Legacies that Revert back to Estate of E J Pruner to be vested in Sallie M. Hayes. E. J. Pruner"

"The Houses on Penna Avenue Tyrone Pa near Paper Mill I give in Trust to Clara R. Moyer she to receive the Rents and Income from the same during her natural life She Keeping the same in Repair and Paying the Taxes on the same and at the death of Clara R. Moyer the two Houses to Revert back to Estate of

[ 400 Pa. Page 633]

E. J. Pruner and to go to the Home for Friendless Children provided they the Corporation of Tyrone & Bellefonte can accept the same and carry out the provision of this will & otherwise if they cannot the two Houses to go to my Niece Sallie M. Hayes of Bellefonte, Pa."

The will contained no catch-all residuary clause.

The Boroughs of Tyrone and Bellefonte accepted the trust and appointed a Board of Managers for the management of the Home. The heirs of Sallie M. Hayes claim the reversionary estate because the purpose of the trust has failed. The auditing Judge rejected their plea because "Examination of the records of Centre and Blair Counties will indicate that there are orphans, and friendless children, who need homes, or a place to be domiciled, and are being so handled. Many of these could be domiciled in the E. J. Pruner Home for Friendless Children." The heirs of Sallie M. Hayes appealed.

Testator died in 1904. From 1918 until 1935 there was a total of 15 children in the Home, some of whom remained in the Home until they were 18 or 19 years of age. Commencing April 15, 1942, there were no children in the Home for two years; from May 7, 1944 until February 1, 1945, there were only two children in the Home; from April 8, 1945 until May 4, 1949, 4, 1949 to the present date there have been no children there was only one child in the Home; and from May in the Home. The Board of Managers of the Home notified not only the Boroughs of Tyrone and Bellefonte, but also the Salvation Army, the Council of Churches in Tyrone and Bellefonte, the Welfare Agencies in those Counties, and persons and organizations who are caring for and looking after friendless or homeless children, of the Home's facilities. In spite of the efforts of the Board of Managers to secure friendless children for the Home, no children have been in the Home for 10 years.

Personal property represented by investments total over $31,000; the total gross income to support the home is $8,779 a year; and expenses of the Home total $4,819 a year.

Charities are favorites of the law and a gift, even for a specific charitable purpose, should be liberally construed whenever reasonably possible. The lower Court, considering the will in its entirety, has construed this charitable gift - a Home for friendless children who have no parents and who come from the Towns of Tyrone and Bellefonte - liberally in favor of the charities, i.e., to be a Home for Friendless Children, even children with parents, who come not only from the Boroughs of Tyrone and Bellefonte and from Altoona, but also from the general area surrounding them. However, if within a reasonable time, there are no children available for the Home in accordance with the terms, provisions, and conditions prescribed in the will, or if for any other reason or for any cause the purpose of the trust has failed or cannot be faithfully carried out, the trust must terminate and the principal thereof must revert, in accordance with the clear language and intent of testator's will to his estate to be vested in his niece, Sallie M. Hayes.

The lower Court concluded, we repeat, that the records of Centre and Blair Counties "indicate that there are orphans, and friendless children, who need homes, or a place to be domiciled", and that many of them could be domiciled in the Pruner Home for Friendless Children. If that is so, no explanation appears on the record why they have not been placed in the Pruner Home. Probably it is because there are no children available in spite of the Court's belief to the contrary. Perhaps this is so because it is a matter of common knowledge that in the last ten years the demand for babies and young children for adoption by yearning parents far exceeds the supply.

We must interpret the testator's intention from an examination of his entire will: Wanamaker Estate, 399 Pa. 274, 159 A.2d 201; Richley Estate, 394 Pa. 188, 146 A.2d 281; Weaver Estate, 390 Pa. 128, 134 A.2d 675.

Mr. Pruner did not create a gift to charity generally - he created a specific gift for a specific charitable purpose, with a reversionary gift over to his niece Sallie M. Hayes, if the purpose of the charitable gift failed, or could not be carried out.

In Randall's Estate, 341 Pa. 501, 19 A.2d 272, the Court said (pages 508, 510-511): "In ascertaining whether the trust here involved was intended to be a specific or general one for charity, we must seek the testator's intention from an examination of the will ...


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