Appeal from decree of Orphans' Court of Bucks County, No. 38599, in re estate of Eva Rybak, deceased.
C. William Freed, Jr., with him Freed and Freed, for appellant.
Claire G. Biehn, with him Biehn and Thatcher, for appellee.
Bell, C.j., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Jones. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Chief Justice Bell joins in this dissenting opinion.
Eva Rybak, (decedent), a Bucks County resident, died, intestate, on May 7, 1964, survived by her husband and three adult children. No letters of administration in her estate have been requested or issued.
On November 29, 1965, Mary Rybak, decedent's daughter, (claimant), proceeding under the Fiduciaries Act of 1949, §§ 202, 212,*fn1 petitioned the Orphans' Court of Bucks County alleging: (a) decedent had resided with claimant from 1956 until her death and that the $1000 family exemption was payable to claimant; (b) decedent's sole assets at the time of her death consisted of (1) U.S. Government bonds valued at $1,041.08 and (2) bank accounts in the names of decedent and claimant, as joint tenants with right of survivorship, totaling $4,419.29; (c) that claimant had paid decedent's funeral and medical expenses and other debts, including the Pennsylvania inheritance tax; (d) decedent's entire estate was less than $2500. The prayer of the petition*fn2 was that the court direct distribution to the claimant of the U. S. Government bonds in payment of the family exemption and as a partial reimbursement to claimant of decedent's debts paid by her.
William Rybak, Jr., one of decedent's surviving sons, (exceptant), filed exceptions to the claimant's petition alleging that, in addition to the assets set forth in the petition, claimant was indebted to the decedent in an amount in excess of $11,000 and, therefore, decedent's estate could not be settled by a petition under the Fiduciaries Act of 1949, supra, §§ 202, 212 but only after a proper administration of the estate. The Orphans' Court of Bucks County took testimony and, after the taking of such testimony, granted the prayer of claimant's petition, overruled the exceptions filed thereto and directed distribution of the U. S. Government bonds to claimant as a family exemption and on account of her claim as a preferred creditor of decedent's estate. From that decree the present appeal was taken.
Even though the court below actually determined this matter on its merits, the court noted that it neither approved nor sanctioned the procedure adopted. The court below further noted: (1) that, if it were to uphold the exceptions and deny claimant's petition, such action as a practical matter would accomplish nothing toward the actual collection of the alleged loan for the benefit of decedent's estate and would only result in repetitious litigation; (2) that, if the exceptions were not upheld and the prayer of the petition granted, other parties in interest, such as possible creditors, in decedent's estate would not be bound by the court's determination and its action as to them would be interlocutory. Nevertheless, the court decided the matter on its merits and ruled that, if decedent had made a loan to claimant, such loan would be barred by the statute of limitations.
A brief recitation of the factual background from which the alleged indebtedness arose is essential. Some years prior to decedent's death, decedent and her husband had separated. On October 12, 1955, she and her husband had entered into a written property settlement
under the terms of which the family farm was to be sold and the proceeds divided equally between decedent and her husband, the farm equipment, livestock, etc., were to be sold and the proceeds divided equally between decedent, her husband and their three children and decedent and her husband mutually agreed to release their respective interests in each other's estate. On February 14, 1956, claimant purchased the farm property for $11,500 and exceptant contends that decedent loaned claimant the money to effectuate the purchase of the farm and that, shortly after the family ...