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LAROCCA ESTATE (10/03/68)

decided: October 3, 1968.

LAROCCA ESTATE


Appeals from decree of Orphans' Court of Montgomery County, No. 61, 872 of 1967, in re trust estate of Joe LaRocca, settlor.

COUNSEL

Thomas J. Timoney, with him Foulke, Knight, Stefan & Timoney, for petitioning attorneys.

J. T. Coughlan, Jr., for natural guardian of minor.

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

Author: Bell

[ 431 Pa. Page 544]

In 1954, Joe LaRocca created an inter vivos trust in certain real estate (which was conveyed to him by a third party) for the benefit of his minor grandson Julius LaRocca. Questions concerning this trust have been appealed to this Court on two prior occasions.*fn1 This time the issue is the amount of attorney fees which should be paid out of the trust estate for legal services rendered in connection with the protection of Julius LaRocca's interest in the trust.

By its terms, the trust provided that the income was payable for the "support, maintenance and education" of Julius LaRocca, born December 19, 1952, until he reached the age of twenty-one, at which time the real estate was to be conveyed to him in fee. No income from the real estate was applied or paid in accordance with the provisions of the trust, and nothing was done about this provision of the trust until after the separation in 1958 of Julius LaRocca's parents, Samuel (who was Joe LaRocca's son) and his wife Maria LaRocca.

In 1961, Maria LaRocca engaged the services of attorneys Richard Knox and his brother John Knox, who thereupon filed in the Orphans' Court a petition for a citation seeking to require Joe LaRocca, trustee, to file an accounting of income received by him from the trust property and to make appropriate distribution. In response to this action, Joe LaRocca sought reformation of the trust instrument, alleging that because of

[ 431 Pa. Page 545]

    mistake the trust should be modified (1) to entitle him to receive the income from the trust property until his death or until the named beneficiary, Julius, reached the age of twenty-one years, and (2) to give him the power to revoke the trust. The Orphans' Court reformed the instrument and gave Joe LaRocca the income from the trust until his death or until Julius reached twenty-one, but refused to give Joe any power of revocation. On appeal to this Court in 1963, we reversed and decided the minor beneficiary was entitled to the income from the trust and the trust deed could not be reformed. LaRocca Trust, 411 Pa. 633, 192 A.2d 409.

Joe LaRocca thereupon filed his account with the Orphans' Court which presented a number of legal questions with regard to the credits which were claimed by the trustee. Julius's mother was not satisfied with the Court's disposition of these questions and, as Julius's natural guardian, requested attorneys Richard Knox and John Knox to take an appeal to this Court in 1965. On this appeal, we modified the adjudication of the Orphans' Court, which resulted in a surcharge against the trustee in the amount of $5,861.31. LaRocca Trust, 419 Pa. 176, 213 A.2d 666.

After that decision, the Knox brothers filed a petition in the Orphans' Court requesting payment from the trust estate of legal fees for all their services totaling $10,600.00, less certain credits. This petition was opposed by the trustees,*fn2 and also particularly by Maria LaRocca as natural guardian. After a hearing, President Judge Taxis made an award to the Knox brothers of counsel fees totaling ...


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