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SUMNEY ESTATE (05/02/67)

decided: May 2, 1967.

SUMNEY ESTATE


Appeal from decree of Orphans' Court of Allegheny County, No. 3202 of 1964, in re estate of Bessie P. Sumney, also known as Besse P. Sumney, deceased.

COUNSEL

Edward A. Witt, with him Michael H. Kowallis, and Witt & DeCello, for appellants.

Lloyd H. Fuge, for appellee.

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

Author: Bell

[ 425 Pa. Page 225]

Dr. Frank F. Sumney died March 20, 1938, leaving a will dated June 20, 1936. He was survived by his widow, Bessie*fn1 and by Weir M. Sumney,*fn2 Janet S. McMullen and Ruth Hughes, three children by a former marriage.

[ 425 Pa. Page 226]

In President Judge Boyle's adjudication, he decided that (as to the stocks and assets in dispute) Bess bore the relationship of trustee to the remaindermen under Dr. Sumney's will. Judge Boyle rejected the contention that Bess's relationship to the remaindermen was that of a debtor-creditor relationship. Exceptions to this adjudication were dismissed by the Orphans' Court en banc. Bess's nephews and nieces who were legatees of two-thirds of her residuary estate have appealed.

The basic questions involved raise the issue (1) whether under Dr. Sumney's will his widow was a trustee of his residuary estate or occupied toward his three children who were his remaindermen the relationship of debtor-creditor, and (2) if the latter, did the widow and testator's three children agree that she held testator's residuary estate as trustee for all of them, and thus abandon whatever claim she had to the relationship of debtor-creditor?

The facts are so important and so unusual that we believe they should be recited at length. Moreover, the two issues are so interrelated in this case that we shall have to discuss all the facts in chronological order.

The dispositive clauses of Dr. Sumney's will are as follows:

"I. I leave to my wife, Bess Sumney, all my real estate and personal property of which I may die possessed or which may accrue to my estate in the future to have and to hold during her life or while she may remain my widow.

"II. At her death or remarriage, all of said property shall revert to my children*fn3 by marriage to my first wife with the sole exemption of one thousand $1,000 which shall be paid to my ...


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