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WANSON ESTATE (09/29/65)

decided: September 29, 1965.

WANSON ESTATE


Appeal from decree of Orphans' Court of Montgomery County, No. 61,583, in re estate of Rudolf Wanson, deceased.

COUNSEL

Don W. Llewellyn, with him Souder and Schoelkopf, for appellants.

Clark Wesley, with him Edward J. McGlinchey, for appellee.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Chief Justice Bell. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Cohen.

Author: Roberts

[ 419 Pa. Page 111]

Rudolf Wanson died March 26, 1957, a resident of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. By will dated April 23, 1956, he bequeathed the residue of his estate equally to four relatives and a friend, all citizens and residents of Rumania.*fn1

The will also provided: ". . . if at the time of my death the Laws of the United States of America, or the Laws of Romania prevent or prohibit the distribution of my Estate to the above-named Citizens of Romania, then and in that event, I give devise and bequeath the aforementioned remainder of my Estate . . . to my friend, Marion Hampel, of Philadelphia, Pa. . . ."

The Orphans' Court of Montgomery County held that at the time of testator's death the Pennsylvania "Iron Curtain Act"*fn2 prevented distribution of his estate to the Rumanian legatees. Acting pursuant to the testamentary provision quoted above, therefore, the court awarded the residue of the estate to decedent's Philadelphia friend. This appeal from that determination is taken by testator's primary beneficiaries in Rumania.

Appellants contend that the Act did not prevent or prohibit distribution to the Rumanian legatees and that the court erroneously ruled that the Act operated to defeat the primary gifts under the will.

The litigants agree with the court's statement: "Decedent's intent is clear. If his estate were not able to be distributed to the Rumanian legatees under the law as it existed at the time of his death, distribution was

[ 419 Pa. Page 112]

    to be made to the alternate legatee." It is apparent that testator's primary concern was for his Rumanian relatives and friend and that his gift to the alternate residuary legatee in Philadelphia was intended to take effect only if there was no possibility at the time of his death that the Rumanian beneficiaries would ever receive the benefit and enjoyment of his gift. The sole and controlling question on this appeal, therefore, is whether the Act of 1953 prohibits or prevents distribution of this testamentary bequest to the Rumanian beneficiaries.

Section 2 of the "Iron Curtain Act"*fn3 provides: "Whenever it shall appear to the court that if distribution were made a beneficiary would not have the actual benefit, use, enjoyment or control of the money or other property distributed to him by a fiduciary, the court shall have the power and authority to direct the fiduciary (a) to make payment of the share of such beneficiary at such times and in such manner and amounts as the court may deem proper, or (b) to withhold distribution of the share ...


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