Appeal from decree of Orphans' Court of Delaware County, No. 735 of 1955, in re estate of Charles T. Bach, deceased.
Frederick D. Sarkis, with him Stassen, Kephart, Sarkis & Kostos, for appellants.
Cuthbert H. Latta, with him O. Warren Higgins, Morgan R. Jones, and Drinker, Biddle & Reath, for appellees.
William H. S. Wells, with him Saul, Ewing, Remick & Saul, for appellee.
Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Chief Justice Bell. Mr. Justice Jones and Mr. Justice Cohen took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
Charles T. Bach died, testate, on May 3, 1955. On May 23, 1956, the Orphans' Court filed an Adjudication confirming the executors' account and approving the Settlement Agreement dated September 19, 1955 which was made by the appellants and the Drexel Institute and will be hereinafter referred to in detail. Shortly thereafter, the estate was distributed in accordance with the Adjudication and the Settlement Agreement.
Approximately 10 years later, four of Bach's testamentary beneficiaries (the appellants) petitioned the Orphans' Court to review its Adjudication and prior Decrees and (a) set them aside because of fraud, and (b) award to the petitioners that part of the residuary estate which the testator had contingently bequeathed to them. The Orphans' Court sustained respondents' preliminary objections and dismissed the petition. From this Decree the four contingent beneficiaries took this appeal.
Bach first bequeathed a number of legacies, including a pecuniary legacy to each of the appellants. He then created a trust of his residuary estate, naming the Pennsylvania Company for Banking and Trusts, his wife Mrs. Bach, and his friend Melvin C. Webb, as trustees. In this residuary trust, he gave his wife, Ruth, the income for life, and also directed the trustees to pay her annually the sum of $7,500 out of net income if the net income was sufficient, or if the net income in any year did not amount to $7,500, to pay her $7,500 out of income and principal. The trustees were also given power to appropriate and expend principal in their discretion for the benefit of his widow in the event of her illness. Bach then provided that, at Mrs. Bach's death -- Mrs. Bach is still living and was named as a respondent in this proceeding -- the remaining remainder of the trust was to be divided into three equal parts: One-third of the principal was to be paid to
Bach's niece, Helen K. Gledhill if then living; one-third to his nephew Elwood S. Kille if then living, or if then deceased, to his wife if then living; and one-third to Bach's nephew Charles T. Weidner if then living, or if then deceased, to Mrs. Weidner if then living. Bach further provided that (a) if the beneficiaries of any one-third share should die before Mrs. Bach, that share should accrue to the other share or shares, and (b) if none of the five named beneficiaries survived Mrs. Bach, the entire principal should be paid to Drexel Institute of Technology.
Thereafter, Webb suggested to Mrs. Bach and to Charles J. Biddle, Esq. -- a distinguished member of the Philadelphia Bar who was counsel for the Drexel Institute and later represented Mrs. Bach -- that the will did not carry out Bach's ideas or wishes or intentions with respect to Drexel Institute, which Webb said Bach had told him he wished to substantially benefit after Mrs. Bach's death. Thereafter, Biddle, with the approval of Mrs. Bach, had conferences with Miss Gledhill and Mr. and Mrs. Kille concerning a possible settlement of the estate, and correspondence with Mr. and Mrs. Weidner concerning a proposed settlement under which Miss Gledhill, the Killes and the Weidners would each receive $30,000 and Drexel Institute would receive the balance of the principal of the residuary estate. Biddle told all the residuary beneficiaries as well as Mrs. Bach that if she (Mrs. Bach) took against the will, there was some doubt or uncertainty in the law as to whether the bequests to the present ...