Appeal, No. 114, March T., 1960, from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Cambria County, June T., 1958, No. 4, in case of Margaret L. Sechler v. William Baker Sechler. Decree reversed.
Gilbert M. Gerber, with him Thomas A. Swope, N. H. Leventon, Charles H. Harris, William D. Shettig, and Shettig, Swope & Shettig, for appellant.
Lawrence L. Davis, with him Davis and Davis, for appellee.
Before Jones, C.j., Bell, Musmanno, Jones, Bok and Eagen, JJ.
OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE BENJAMIN R. JONES.
In the Court of Common Pleas of Cambria County, Margaret Sechler on April 13, 1958 instituted an
equity action against W. B. Sechler (Sechler), her brother, wherein she sought: (1) to enjoin him from encumbering the Highland Hotel, Ebensburg Borough; (2) to have him declared trustee for her of a one-half interest in that property; (3) to have him account for one-half of the rents of the property since February 7, 1958 (the date of death of Elsie Sechler, the parties' mother).*fn1
Upon issue joined and after a hearing,*fn2 the court below in a decree nisi declared Sechler trustee for Miss Sechler of "one-half of the net proceeds of the real estate and personal property of the Highland Hotel" allowing Sechler to deduct $8578 advanced by him to Elsie Sechler, the parties' mother. The court en banc dismissed exceptions to this decree and its final decree is the subject of this appeal.
Part of the factual background of this action is undisputed. On August 24, 1926, J. L. Sechler and Elsie Sechler, his wife, became owners, as tenants by the entireties, of the Highland Hotel property. Upon J. L. Sechler's death on March 2, 1928, Elsie Sechler, by operation of law, became the sole owner.*fn3 Through the medium of a straw-man, on April 2, 1940, Elsie Sechler conveyed by deed the Highland Hotel property to herself and Sechler, as joint tenants with right of survivorship. Coincident thereto, Miss Sechler became
the sole beneficiary of all her mother's life insurance policies.*fn4 Both prior and subsequent to April 2, 1940, Sechler advanced moneys to his mother.*fn5 Miss Sechler did not learn of the transfer of the Highland Hotel until sometime between 1943 and 1946 when she happened to be in the courthouse. Upon learning thereof, Miss Sechler talked with both her mother and brother about the transaction. Approximately five years later (1951) certain correspondence between mother and daughter took place. In 1944 the mother prepared a memorandum in which she stated that her son had purchased a one-half interest in Highland Hotel and that "[it] was not a gift". In 1932 the mother made a will in ...