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MORRISSEY ESTATE (10/09/70)

decided: October 9, 1970.

MORRISSEY ESTATE


Appeals from orders of Court of Common Pleas of Lebanon County, Nos. 232, 233 and 234 of 1969, in re Estate of J. Michael Morrissey, Jr., a minor.

COUNSEL

H. Rank Bickel, Jr., with him James R. Koller, and Siegrist, Koller & Siegrist, for appellants.

Allen H. Krause, with him Henry J. Steiner, for appellee.

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

Author: Pomeroy

[ 440 Pa. Page 440]

This case involves the propriety of the appointment of guardians for the estates of three minor children, all 14 years of age or older, sons of Hilda G. Morrissey,

[ 440 Pa. Page 441]

    the petitioner for the appointment, and of J. Michael Morrissey, Sr., the guardian ad litem and appellant herein.*fn1

While guardianship for the estates of minor children is the precise matter in controversy, the background indicates that the larger controversy is, as the lower court's opinion states, "the control of a family controlled oil company, most of the stock of which was in the names of the father, mother and the children." This larger controversy is apparently also related to marital difficulties between the parents, Hilda and J. Michael Morrissey, Sr., who had separated prior to the start of these proceedings. Some of the salient facts as given by the lower court in its opinion are as follows: "The oil company was originally founded by the maternal grandfather of the minors. The father is president of the company and the mother was, until the transfer of stock hereinafter referred to, a paid officer. The three boys live with the father and are employed by the oil company. They are fourteen years of age and over [Michael, Jr. was age 20, David 18, and Daniel 14]. The boys transferred to their father their certificates of stock at book value which undoubtedly was considerably less than the real value of such stock.*fn2 The father gave his personal notes [each in the amount of $3,229.59] to the boys payable when they attain the age of twenty-one. No interest was to be paid on the notes. One of the purposes of the transfer, if not the only one, was to give the father control of the company.

[ 440 Pa. Page 442]

The boys' stock certificates were not delivered to the corporation as required by the by-laws because they were in the mother's possession. The transfer was made on the advice of the father's attorneys. The father used the control he got from the transfer to oust the mother from her paid office."

The testimony at the hearing further showed that all of the promissory notes were placed in a safe deposit box in the name of Michael Morrissey, Jr.; that after the filing of the petitions in this case and before the filing of answers the three minors withdrew substantially all of the money in their respective bank accounts;*fn3 and that these funds also were placed in Michael, Jr.'s safe deposit box. The transfers of these funds, like the assignments of the shares of stock, were made on advice of counsel for the father with a view to preventing a guardian, if appointed, from obtaining control of the funds or of the promissory notes. The two older boys, Michael and David, testified that they had sold their stock to their father in order to protect their interest in the corporation, and the corporation itself, from their mother, who, according to them, was not capable of operating the business. David, in fact, said "my mother is out to destroy" the company, but could not indicate any basis for this assertion.

At the conclusion of the hearing the court appointed First National Bank, Lebanon, Pennsylvania, to be guardian of the estate of each minor, and directed that the safe deposit box of Michael might not be entered without an order of court. These ...


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