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VALLISH ESTATE (08/06/68)

decided: August 6, 1968.

VALLISH ESTATE


Appeal from decree of Orphans' Court of Columbia County, May T., 1965, No. 47, in re estate of Walter B. Vallish, deceased.

COUNSEL

Tom P. Monteverde, with him Vincent B. Makowski, Robert E. Bull, and Lark, Makowski & Marateck, and Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, for appellant.

Gailey C. Keller, with him Smith, Eves and Keller, for appellee.

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

Author: Jones

[ 431 Pa. Page 90]

This appeal challenges the validity of a decree of the Orphans' Court of Columbia County which, because of the existence of an antenuptial agreement, revoked and vacated an election by a surviving spouse to take against the will of her deceased husband. The sole issue is the validity of that antenuptial agreement.

Walter B. Vallish [decedent], died, testate, on May 14, 1965, survived by Stella Vallish, his widow, three daughters by a prior marriage and several grandchildren. According to the inventory filed, decedent at the time of his death owned realty valued at $10,000 and personalty, including stocks, bonds, a mortgage, bank account, etc., valued at approximately $100,000.

Under the terms of decedent's will, Mrs. Vallish was given an option either (a) to receive $50 monthly until receipt of the total of $5,000 or (b) to live in decedent's residence in Locust Township, Columbia County, "for as long as she desires so long as [the] residence is maintained all year round and so long as she bears responsibility for and pays all maintenance, costs and expenses and keeps the property in a proper state of repair and maintains it in its present condition."*fn1

On July 30, 1965, Mrs. Vallish filed an election to take against decedent's will. On January 13, 1966, Dorothy Linnet, a daughter of decedent and decedent's personal representative, joined in by decedent's other daughters, a son-in-law and two grandchildren, petitioned the Orphans' Court of Columbia County for a

[ 431 Pa. Page 91]

    rule upon Mrs. Vallish to show cause why her election should not be revoked and vacated. This petition was predicated on the fact that on December 3, 1958, -- 27 days prior to decedent's marriage to Mrs. Vallish -- an antenuptial agreement had been executed wherein decedent and Mrs. Vallish each agreed to relinquish any and all claims which each party might have in property then owned or thereafter acquired by the other. The court granted the rule and Mrs. Vallish filed an answer alleging, inter alia, that the antenuptial agreement was invalid because decedent had not fully and fairly disclosed to her the extent and value of his property and that the consideration for the agreement was neither adequate nor reasonable. After several hearings, the court entered a decree revoking and vacating Mrs. Vallish's election to take against the will and from that decree the instant appeal lies.

Mrs. Vallish contends, in substance, that: (1) the finding of the court below that prior to the execution of the antenuptial agreement there had been a full and fair disclosure of decedent's assets lacks evidentiary support; (2) the court erred in excluding from the record proof offered by her of the extent and value of decedent's assets at the time of execution of the antenuptial agreement; (3) the court was biased and prejudiced against her.

[ 431 Pa. Page 92]

The agreement recites, inter alia, that decedent owned certain realty and personalty "the value of which has been fully disclosed to the intended wife", that the prospective Mrs. Vallish owned certain personalty, "the full value of which has been disclosed to the intended husband", and that it was the intention of each party to relinquish any share or interest which either party might acquire, by reason of the prospective marriage, in property then owned or thereafter acquired by the other party. This agreement, which made no provision whatsoever for the intended Page 92} wife, recited as the consideration thereof the marriage, the parties' mutual promises and $1.00. That the agreement was executed by decedent and Mrs. Vallish and witnessed by one Frank Valeski and Howard R. Berninger, the scrivener, is admitted. No schedule of the parties' assets was attached to the agreement.

Decedent and Mrs. Vallish had been previously married, their respective spouses were deceased, and each had children born of such prior marriage; Mrs. Vallish's first husband had come with decedent to this country from Poland; Mrs. Vallish first became acquainted with decedent when she was a ten year old child living in Mount Carmel, Northumberland County; Mrs. Vallish and her first husband had resided for approximately 40 years in Ohio and she and her then husband saw decedent very infrequently during that period; Mrs. Vallish and decedent renewed their acquaintance in July 1958 and, thereafter, until the time ...


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