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PRYNN ESTATE (01/24/74)


decided: January 24, 1974.


Appeal from decree of Court of Common Pleas, Orphans' Court Division, of Luzerne County, No. 1581 of 1970, in re estate of Gertrude M. Prynn.


E. Charles Coslett, with him Cardoni, Coslett, Cappellini, Sobota, Piccone & Kane, for appellants.

Stephen A. Teller, with him Mitchell Jenkins, Frank Townend, and E. Walter Samuel, for appellees.

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

Author: Roberts

[ 455 Pa. Page 194]

On September 24, 1970, Gertrude Prynn executed, by mark, a last will and testament expressly revoking all previous wills. Two days later Mrs. Prynn died. Her will was probated on September 29, 1970. Testatrix's heirs-at-law, five first cousins, objected to certain charitable bequests*fn1 in the 1970 will on the theory that these bequests were invalid because made within thirty days of death. The Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, Orphans' Court Division overruled the objections. Exceptions to the adjudication were dismissed. We affirm.*fn2

Mrs. Prynn's 1970 will revoked a holographic will dated January 22, 1962.*fn3 In the earlier instrument testatrix made several specific bequests to individuals and charities. The residuary estate was to be divided into four equal shares.*fn4 The 1970 will directed a tripartite

[ 455 Pa. Page 195]

    division of the residue; the 1970 residuary beneficiaries are three of the four named in the 1962 document.*fn5

The heirs-at-law asserted before the orphans' court that section 2507(1) of the Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code*fn6 invalidated testatrix's charitable gifts

[ 455 Pa. Page 196]

    made within the thirty days of death to the extent the gifts exceeded those provided by her 1962 will. This provision, the heirs allege, nullified several specific bequests and the disposition of one-quarter of the residuary bequest. The heirs reasoned that since each of the three residuary beneficiaries were entitled to only one-quarter of the residue in the 1962 will, the increase to a one-third share in the 1970 will constituted a "new gift," invalid under section 2507(1). This portion of the residue and the new specific charitable bequests, it was argued, passed by intestacy to the heirs-at-law.

The orphans' court concluded that although the charitable bequests had been made within thirty days of death, they were not invalid. The court held that sections 2514(10) and (11) of the Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code*fn7 require that the challenged gifts, both specific and residuary, pass to the residuary beneficiaries and not to the heirs-at-law. The court could find no authority for decreeing a partial intestacy even if all residuary beneficiaries are charities taking "new gifts."*fn8 Since section 2507(1) invalidates a bequest only "to the extent that someone who would benefit by its invalidity objects," and the heirs could not benefit, the court held all charitable bequests, specific and residuary, valid. The heirs have renewed their argument on appeal.

We need not examine the reasoning of the orphans' court for we conclude that section 2507(1) specifically

[ 455 Pa. Page 197]

    precludes the disposition advocated by the heirs.*fn9 The 1970 amendment to section 2507(1)*fn10 provides: "If a bequest or devise is revoked within 30 days of death and the revocation has the effect of increasing the religious or charitable bequest or devise, such increase shall not be considered a new or additional bequest or devise for religious or charitable purposes within the meaning of this act."

The 1970 will revoked all bequests made by the 1962 will including the bequest of one-quarter of the residuary estate to the American Bible Society. Thus, the bequests to the three 1970 residuary beneficiaries were increased by the revocation but, by the terms of the 1970 amendment to section 2507(1), these are not to be considered "new gifts." The three may therefore take their increased residuary shares. If any specific bequest in the 1970 will were found invalid, nothing would prevent it from passing by the residuary clause. Accordingly, the heirs could in no circumstances benefit from the invalidity of any bequest provided by the 1970 will. Since the heirs cannot benefit, they have no standing to object.*fn11

[ 455 Pa. Page 198]

The orphans' court thus properly overruled the objections and dismissed the exceptions.

Decree of distribution affirmed. Each party pay own costs.


Decree of distribution affirmed.

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