Appeal from decree of Orphans' Court of Butler County, No. 418 of 1962, in re estate of Martin Krepinevich, deceased.
James Francis Lawler, with him Ostroff & Lawler, for appellants.
Francis J. Gafford, Deputy Attorney General, with him Robert J. Stock, Counsel, and William C. Sennett, Attorney General, for Commonwealth, appellee.
Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Jones. Mr. Justice Musmanno did not participate in the decision of this case. Concurring and Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice O'Brien.
Martin Krepinevich (decedent), a Butler County resident, died intestate as the result of an automobile accident which occurred on October 6, 1962. An auditor was appointed by the Orphans' Court of Butler County to determine the heirs of the decedent and to recommend the manner of distribution of his estate.
There were two claimants to the estate: (1) Ustina Mitrofanovna Krepinevich (appellant), claiming as widow of the decedent and as his sole heir on the basis that he was survived by "no issue, parent, brother, sister, child of a brother or sister, grandparent, uncle or aunt" as provided by § 2(4) of the Intestate
Act of 1947, P. L. 80, as amended, 20 P.S. § 1.2(4);*fn1 (2) The Commonwealth claiming under § 1314 of The Fiscal Code of 1929, P. L. 343, 72 P.S. § 1314 in the event that the evidence failed to establish that the appellant is the widow of the decedent.*fn2
The auditor held that the appellant had failed to prove that she was the widow of the decedent and recommended that the funds of the estate be awarded to the Commonwealth without escheat. The Orphans' Court of Butler County adopted the auditor's findings of fact and conclusions of law and awarded the estate to the Commonwealth.
The standard the appellant must satisfy in order to substantiate her claim as a widow was enunciated by this Court in Link's Estate (No. 1), 319 Pa. 513, 522, 523, 180 Atl. 1 (1935): "The evidence to sustain relationship must bear on every material feature necessary to support a finding of kinship. It must be grounded on a reasonable certainty and come from witnesses whose truth and candor are not questioned. To defeat the claim of the Commonwealth the evidence must be so clear, precise and definite in quality and quantity as to satisfy the court below that the relationship claimed existed." See also: Davis Estate, 365 Pa. 605, 608, 76 A.2d 643 (1950); Schultz Estate, 32 Pa. D. & C. 2d 312, 321 (1963); Stevens Estate, 28 Pa. D. & C. 2d 658, 662 (1962); Martinzik Estate, 25 Pa. D. & C. 2d 701, 707
(1962). Specifically, appellant must prove (1) that she is the decedent's widow and (2) that the decedent was not survived by any issue, parent, brother, sister, child of a brother or sister, grandparent, uncle or aunt. ...