Appeal from decree of Orphans' Court of Beaver County, No. 401 of 1967, in re estate of William H. Beichner, deceased.
Rex Downie, Jr., for appellant.
Peter O. Steege, with him Leonard L. Ewing, and Ewing, Evans and Steege, for appellee.
Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Jones. Mr. Justice Roberts concurred in the result. Mr. Justice Musmanno did not participate in the decision of this case.
This appeal challenges the propriety of a decree of the Orphans' Court of Beaver County removing an executrix of an estate and revoking letters testamentary granted to her.
William H. Beichner, a resident of Beaver County, died testate on September 21, 1967. Surviving Beichner were four daughters by a first marriage and Millie Beichner, his wife by a second marriage.
Beichner's will -- dated May 29, 1967 -- provided: first, for payment of debts, last illness and funeral expenses; second, a specific devise of his realty, located at 2103 Eighth Street, Patterson Township, Beaver County, and all furniture therein to Mrs. Beichner;*fn1 third, the residuary estate is given to Beichner's four daughters; fourth, a direction that all taxes be paid out "of the principal of [his] general estate" as if such taxes were expenses of administration, fifth, the appointment of two of his daughters -- Amanda Groom and Joan Larson -- as executrices of the estate.
On October 13, 1967, Beichner's will was probated and letters testamentary issued to the named executrices. On May 2, 1968, Mrs. Beichner petitioned the Orphans' Court of Beaver County for the removal of both Mrs. Groom and Mrs. Larson as executrices and the appointment of a corporate administrator in their stead. Her petition averred, inter alia: (a) that the executrices had not filed an inventory or a statement of debts and deductions and had not paid the transfer
inheritance tax; (b) that the claims against the estate, to petitioner's knowledge, amount to approximately $5500 included in which are estimated fees for the executrices and attorneys of $1297 which it is claimed are excessive; (c) that executrices contracted an excessive funeral bill of $1,938.70; (d) that Beichner had told petitioner that he had a life insurance policy, wherein the named beneficiary was Mrs. Larson, earmarked for payment of funeral expenses which Mrs. Larson had agreed to pay out of the proceeds of the policy but which she now refuses to pay, contending the insurance proceeds were a gift from decedent; (e) that Mrs. Larson, a registered nurse, has presented two claims against the estate, one for $2,470 for private duty nursing plus medication and the other for $100 for injections for the petitioner, which claims "are with the cooperation of" Mrs. Groom; (f) that the executrices have charged petitioner with concealing and disposing of estate assets and have disclosed "a fixed enmity toward her"; (g) that an "unfriendly feeling exists between the [executrices] and [Mrs. Beichner] through no fault of" [the petitioner].
Upon issuance by the court of a citation on the executrices to show cause why they should not be removed from office, Mrs. Groom filed an answer wherein she averred, inter alia: (a) that no inventory had been filed because she had been unable to ascertain from petitioner the whereabouts of certain of Beichner's personal assets and filing of a statement of debts and deductions had been delayed in the hope petitioner would amicably disclose certain personal assets; (b) that the estimated fees for the executrices and attorney were not excessive; (c) that the funeral bill was not ...