Appeal from judgment of Orphans' Court of Mercer County, Reg. No. 26150, in re estate of Samuel J. Mohney, deceased.
Henry S. Moore, for appellant.
D. W. Patterson, for appellee.
Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Chief Justice Bell. Concurring Opinion by Mr. Justice Jones. Mr. Justice Cohen joins in this concurring opinion.
The executrix of the will of Samuel J. Mohney, Mabel H. Mohney, who was decedent's second wife, and Esther L. Mohney, who was decedent's first wife, joined in a petition for a declaratory judgment which was filed in the Orphans' Court to determine (1) who was the owner of a $25 U. S. Treasury Bond which was registered in the name of Samuel J. Mohney or Mrs. Esther L. Mohney, and (2) who was entitled to the proceeds of a group life insurance policy issued to
the decedent, in which his first wife (Esther L. Mohney) was named, by name, as beneficiary. The Orphans' Court decided that the first wife was entitled (1) to half the value of the U. S. bond, and (2) to all of the proceeds of the group life insurance policy.
Why declaratory proceedings were brought instead of the customary and appropriate way of filing an account and presenting the questions at the audit of decedent's account, was not disclosed. This proceeding was improper for each of the following reasons:
(1) While the grant of a petition for a declaratory judgment is a matter of sound judicial discretion:
"This Court now adheres to the view that declaratory judgment proceedings must not be entertained if there exists another available and appropriate remedy, whether statutory or not: McWilliams v. McCabe, 406 Pa. 644, 179 A.2d 222; State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Semple, 407 Pa. 572, 180 A.2d 925." Lakeland Joint School District Authority v. Scott Township School District, 414 Pa. 451, 200 A.2d 748.
In State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Semple, 407 Pa., supra, the Court said (pages 574-575): "The principles to guide the lower courts in determining whether or not a declaratory judgment proceeding should be entertained was recently clarified by this Court in McWilliams v. McCabe, 406 Pa. 644, 179 A.2d 222 (1962). Therein we declared, inter alia, (1) that a declaratory judgment proceeding is not an optional substitute for established and available remedies; (2) that it should not be granted where a more appropriate remedy is available; (3) that it should not be granted unless compelling and unusual circumstances exist; (4) that it should not be ...