Appeal from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Snyder County, March T., 1970, No. 2, in re Joan E. Thomas, executrix of the estate of Beulah E. Seaman v. Dewey H. Seaman and Esther L. Seaman.
Daniel J. Clement, with him Franklin L. Kury, and Kury and Kury, for appellants.
John R. Moore, for appellee.
Jones, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Chief Justice Jones.
This action in equity was brought to set aside a deed on grounds that it was procured by fraud and undue influence. The court below entered a decree adjudging the disputed deed null and void and ordering the appellants, Dewey H. Seaman ("Dewey") and Esther L. Seaman ("Esther"), grantees, to reconvey the property to the grantor, Beulah E. Seaman ("Beulah"). As Beulah is now deceased, she is represented for the purpose of this appeal by Joan E. Thomas ("Joan"), executrix of the estate.*fn1
This appeal raises the questions whether the evidence supports a finding that Dewey made fraudulent misrepresentations to Beulah inducing this conveyance and whether the evidence establishes the exercise of undue influence.
Our consideration of these questions necessitates a preliminary recounting of the involved factual situation which gave rise to this dispute. Beulah Seaman, eighty-three years old and unmarried at the time of this conveyance,
owned a six-acre farm in Middlecreek Township, Pennsylvania. Beulah resided in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania with her sister until the sister's death in August 1968. With the death of her sister, and the onset of medical and financial difficulties, Beulah became increasingly dependent upon her niece, Joan, the appellee-executrix here. Beulah reposed great confidence in Joan and relied upon her for financial guidance.
After the death of Beulah's sister, Beulah's seventy-two-year-old brother, Dewey, began to visit her daily. On February 11, 1969, while visiting the tenants of her Middlecreek farm, Beulah received a telephone call from Dewey, who announced he was buying the farm. Beulah balked when Dewey indicated that he hoped to consummate the "sale" immediately but Dewey responded he had made an appointment for them to see a Selinsgrove attorney that day and the arrangements "could not be cancelled". Dewey then transported Beulah from her Middlecreek farm to the office of Dewey's attorney. Beulah attempted to ascertain the "sale" price of her farm while enroute to the scrivener's office, but Dewey would not discuss the purchase price; he merely assured Beulah he was "buying" the farm.
When Beulah and Dewey arrived at the office of Attorney Harvey P. Murray, Jr., the deed had already been prepared. Beulah was allowed to examine the document and thereupon questioned why the purchase price was not recited in the deed. She was told that most people preferred not to recite the consideration for the deed on the face of the instrument. When Beulah questioned the fact that the deed vested a present interest in her brother and a remainder in his wife, and expressed ...