Appeal from decree of Court of Common Pleas, Orphans' Court Division, of Berks County, No. 67081, in re Estate of Laura H. Heidtman.
Peirce A. Hammond, Jr., with him Harris, Hammond and Harris, for appellants.
George R. Eves, for appellee.
Jones, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Chief Justice Jones.
This appeal raises two issues: (1) does a husband, by virtue of the marital relation to his incompetent spouse, possess such an adverse interest in her property that he must be precluded from appointment as guardian of her estate? (2) if, as a matter of law, there is no adverse interest by reason of the husband-wife relation
alone, did the evidence presented in the court below justify a finding of adverse interest in fact?
The question of the necessity of a guardian for Laura H. Heidtman's estate is not in issue: her incompetence was conclusively established by medical testimony in the proceedings below and is not disputed by the appellants. The only question before us is whether the lower court properly appointed the incompetent's husband to serve as guardian.*fn1
Laura Heidtman was admitted to the Reading Hospital on March 30, 1972. She was examined there by Dr. Elmer Horst, who found her "acutely disturbed and very paranoid." Laura Heidtman's husband, Walter Heidtman, petitioned the court for an adjudication of incompetence. He also requested that he be appointed as guardian of Laura Heidtman's estate. After a hearing on May 5, 1972, the court issued its June 7, 1972, decree of incompetence and appointed Walter Heidtman as guardian of the estate.
On June 22, 1972, Estelle Gray, Florence Hirst and George Harnly, siblings of the incompetent, filed exceptions to the lower court's exclusion of offered evidence, its appointment of Walter Heidtman as guardian and the failure to appoint a "disinterested" guardian. On October 16, 1972, the court issued a decree sustaining these exceptions for the limited purpose of determining the admissibility of the excluded evidence and to judge whether such evidence, if admitted, could establish circumstances which would warrant a denial of the appointment of the incompetent's husband as guardian.
A second hearing was held on November 10, 1972. On December 4, 1972, the court ...