Appeals from decree of Court of Common Pleas, Orphans' Court Division, of Westmoreland County, Nov. T., 1972, No. 65-70-886, in re estate of Richard K. Mellon, deceased.
David Berger and Philip C. Patterson, with them Gerald J. Rodos, Edwin P. Rome, Norman L. Holmes, Donald J. Farage, Edward McDaid, David Berger, P.A., Blank, Rome, Klaus & Comisky and Farage and Schrager, for appellants.
Gilbert J. Helwig, with him Henry P. Hoffstot, Jr., A. M. Wiggins, Jr., Joseph D. Hughes, Mason Walsh, Jr. and Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay, for appellees.
Jones, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Justice Pomeroy took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
The Orphans' Court Division of the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County on November 3, 1972, overruled appellants' objections to the distribution proposed by the executors of the estate of Richard K. Mellon and confirmed absolutely the executors' accounts and distributions previously made. On December 29, 1972, the court en banc filed an opinion dismissing appellants' exceptions to the earlier decree. On the record before us it is unclear whether the auditing judge fully exercised the discretion granted by section 3389 of the Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code.*fn1 We therefore are obliged to vacate the decree and remand this matter to the orphans' court for further consideration.*fn2
Richard K. Mellon died testate on June 3, 1970, and letters testamentary were granted eight days later.*fn3 On October 6, 1972, the executors' first and partial account and supplemental account, together covering administration to September 12, 1972, were called for audit. At the audit, counsel for the Penn Central Reorganization Trustees*fn4 objected to the proposed distribution and filed a memorandum in support of their objections. The basis of these objections was assertion of the estate's potential liability for some portion of the losses sustained by the Penn Central Transportation Company during decedent's tenure as a director of that corporation.
The auditing judge, on November 3, 1972, confirmed absolutely the executors' accounts and proposed schedule of distribution. The balance of $1,628,226.60 principal and $204,074.00 income was awarded to the executors for further administration.*fn5 The court en banc affirmed
on December 29, 1972. A motion for reconsideration of the dismissal of exceptions and a petition to require residuary beneficiaries to refund distribution made by the fiduciaries prior to the decree were denied on January 24, 1973.
On this appeal*fn6 it is asserted that the orphans' court abused the discretion afforded it by section 3389 of the Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code by not suspending distribution pending determination in the United States District Court of decedent's liability in the Penn Central securities litigation. The auditing judge declined to suspend distribution because he believed the goal of prompt and orderly administration of the estate outweighed the interest of the Penn Central plaintiffs. The court en banc adopted this view.
It is manifest that the prompt, orderly, and efficient administration of decedents' estates is a primary concern of the Commonwealth and its orphans' courts.*fn7 So too, the Commonwealth and its courts recognize the public policy interest in protecting the claims of creditors against decedents' estates ...