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STRUNK ESTATE (07/02/73)

SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: July 2, 1973.

STRUNK ESTATE

Appeal from decree of Court of Common Pleas, Orphans' Court Division of Montgomery County, No. 72496, in re Estate of Robert A. Strunk, Sr.

COUNSEL

Kingsley A. Jarvis, for appellant.

Walton B. Yoder, Jr., for appellee.

Jones, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Eagen. Mr. Justice Nix took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Eagen

[ 453 Pa. Page 20]

Robert A. Strunk, Sr. (decedent), died intestate on August 2, 1970, survived by his wife, Leona G. Strunk, and his son, Robert A. Strunk, Jr.

Letters of administration were granted to the wife who subsequently filed an inventory*fn1 of the estate showing only real estate, valued at $25,000, in Spring City, Pennsylvania, as the sole asset of the decedent.

[ 453 Pa. Page 21]

Robert A. Strunk, Jr. (appellant) filed objections to the inventory in the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, claiming the decedent owned a truck leasing company under a resulting trust, stock in a truck leasing corporation, a Lincoln Continental automobile, and that the real estate should be valued at more than $25,000.

After the hearing, Judge Taxis dismissed the objections to the inventory and this appeal followed.

Initially, the propriety of such procedure must be determined. In Rogers Estate, 379 Pa. 494, 495, 496, 108 A.2d 924, 925 (1954), we said: "In the settlement of a decedent's estate disputed title to property should not be determined upon exceptions to an inventory and appraisement which happens not to include the property claimed on behalf of the estate. The function and object of an inventory and appraisement in a decedent's estate is to fix presumptively the existence of property in the possession of the fiduciary and the value thereof. This is only prima facie evidence of ownership and value. Such listing does not affect the true ownership and value: Stewart's Estate, 137 Pa. 175, 20 A. 554; Moore's Estate (No. 1), 211 Pa. 338, 60 A. 987; Herman's Estate, 226 Pa. 543, 75 A. 731; Fleming's Estate, 10 Dist. 259 (Penrose, J.). The question of ownership is of interest to creditors, federal and state taxing authorities, and others. Such title, therefore, should not be finally determined until after an audit, with due statutory notice, and the determination by the orphans' court whether or not a substantial issue of fact exists."

Since we have not had an audit, "at this stage of the proceedings we need not resolve appellant's claim because the dismissal of appellant's objections to the inventory is not a final decree determining ownership of property, and hence is not appealable." Nunnamaker Estate, 452 Pa. 467, 308 A.2d 96 (1973).

[ 453 Pa. Page 22]

Since the proper time for settling the claims of all creditors is at the audit and accounting of the estate,*fn2 this appeal is premature.*fn3

Accordingly, the appeal is quashed and the matter remanded to the Orphans' Court Division of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County for proceedings consistent with this opinion and the orderly administration of the decedent's estate.

Each party to pay own costs.

Disposition

Appeal quashed and matter remanded.


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