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OLSON ESTATE (05/25/72)

decided: May 25, 1972.

OLSON ESTATE


Appeal from decree of Court of Common Pleas, of McKean County, Sept. T., 1971, No. 45, in case of estate of William H. Olson, deceased; appeal of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

COUNSEL

Vincent Dopko, Deputy Attorney General, for Commonwealth, appellant.

No oral argument was made nor brief submitted for appellee.

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

Author: Roberts

[ 447 Pa. Page 484]

William H. Olson died testate on February 17, 1971. His widow and executrix, Fern Weaver Olson, filed an inheritance tax return.*fn1 Neither the inventory nor the filed return listed any interest of decedent in two joint savings accounts in the Northwest Savings and Loan Association. These accounts with the right of survivorship were in the names of decedent and his brother Paul H. Olson.*fn2

[ 447 Pa. Page 485]

The Commonwealth filed its tax appraisal and included assessments of both joint accounts.*fn3 Decedent's executrix appealed from the assessment. A hearing was held before the Orphans' Court Division of the Court of Common Pleas of McKean County. The court concluded that "these joint bank accounts were created by reason of accident and mistake induced by the Savings institutions themselves . . ."*fn4 and were not subject

[ 447 Pa. Page 486]

    to tax. The Commonwealth appealed.*fn5 Our review of the record satisfies us that the decree must be reversed.

Section 241 of the Inheritance Tax Act imposes a tax on joint tenancy interests as follows: " When any property is held in the names of two or more persons, or is deposited in a financial institution in the names of two or more persons, so that, upon the death of one of them, the survivor or survivors have a right to the immediate ownership or possession and enjoyment of the whole property, the accrual of such right, upon the death of one of them, shall be deemed a transfer subject to tax under this Act, of a fractional portion of such property to be determined by dividing the value of the whole property by the number of joint tenants in existence immediately preceding the death of the deceased joint tenant." Act of June 15, 1961, P. L. 373, art. II, § 241, 72 P.S. § 2485-241 (emphasis added).

Section 241 in clear and specific language imposes a tax upon a joint account with a right of survivorship, upon the death of one of the joint tenants. The enhanced "right to the immediate ownership or possession and enjoyment of the whole property"*fn6 thus accruing to the survivor is deemed a statutory transfer subject to tax.

In Cochrane's Estate, 342 Pa. 108, 20 A.2d 305 (1941), where we sustained the constitutionality of the practically identical predecessor of Section 241, we observed: ...


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