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LOCK ESTATE (08/06/68)

decided: August 6, 1968.

LOCK ESTATE


Appeal from order of Orphans' Court of Dauphin County, No. 195 of 1961, in re estate of Mike Lock, deceased.

COUNSEL

Howell C. Mette, with him Walter K. Swartzkopf, Jr., and Rhoads, Sinon & Reader, for appellant.

Ralph S. Snyder, with him Earl J. Melman, and Melman, Gekas, Kusic & Nicholas, and Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, for appellee.

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

Author: O'brien

[ 431 Pa. Page 253]

This is the appeal of Esther Raechel Lock, surviving spouse, from the decree of the Orphans' Court of Dauphin County. That decree denied Esther Lock's claim for the allowance to her of the family exemption in the estate of Mike Lock, her deceased husband, and vacated her election to take against the will of Mike Lock.

Mike Lock died testate on January 24, 1961. His will was duly probated on March 9, 1961. On July 28, 1961, Esther Lock, the widow, filed an election to take against the will and on September 9, 1961, filed an application for allowance of the family exemption. On September 13, 1961, the executor of decedent's

[ 431 Pa. Page 254]

    estate filed his answer to the application for allowance of the family exemption and a petition for a rule to show cause why the election to take against the will should not be stricken, vacated and set aside. The parties filed appropriate pleadings and the consolidated matters were heard on November 28, 1961.

The record of the hearing established, inter alia, that the decedent, Mike Lock, and Esther Lock were married on May 25, 1952. The marriage was the second for each. The decedent at the time of the marriage was 58 years of age and his wife 54 years of age. Each had separate estates and children by a prior marriage. On May 22, 1952, the decedent and his betrothed entered into an antenuptial agreement providing in essence that neither party should have any rights in the estate of the other by reason of their marriage.

In the hearing in the court below, the estate introduced the antenuptial agreement and rested. Mrs. Lock contended there, as she does before this Court, that the antenuptial agreement was ineffective to bar her right of election against decedent's will and her right to the family exemption for two reasons. First, she claimed that the agreement was invalid from the outset since there was neither a reasonable provision for her nor full and adequate disclosure to her of decedent's assets at the time of execution of the agreement. See Hillegass Estate, 431 Pa. 144, 244 A.2d 672 (1968). Secondly, even if initially binding on her, the agreement was no longer binding, she claimed, by virtue of its breach by decedent in failing to provide a home for her. The court below held that there was no breach and that there was adequate disclosure, and thus did not have to reach the question of whether there was a reasonable provision.*fn1

[ 431 Pa. Page 255]

We agree with the analysis of the court below holding that appellant failed to prove a breach of the agreement. However, we disagree with his disposition of the case as regards the disclosure issue. On the evidence properly before him, it was error for the court below to find a full and adequate disclosure. The court relied upon the testimony of Martin H. Lock, Esquire, son of the decedent and the attorney who drew the antenuptial agreement in dispute, as showing disclosure. Martin Lock testified that he disclosed to Mrs. Lock, prior to the signing of the agreement, the extent of Mr. Lock's property and net worth. However, the ...


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