Vincent J. Dopko, Deputy Atty. Gen., Harrisburg, for appellant.
Cassin W. Craig, Norristown, for appellee Lois H. Brownback.
Robert B. Brunner, Norristown, for appellee, Robert B. Evans, Executor of Est. of Elmina R. Brant, Dec'd; Wisler, Pearlstine, Talone, Craig & Garrity, Brunner, Conver & Glackin, Norristown, of counsel.
Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Manderino, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which Nix, J., joins.
This is another inheritance tax appeal, consuming judicial time and the litigants' resources, which might have been avoided had there been adequate explanation of the alternatives to and consequences of a joint tenancy savings account to a depositor who sought merely a convenience account. See Gillespie Estate, 462 Pa. 467, 341 A.2d 471 (1975); Olson Estate, 447 Pa. 483, 291 A.2d 95 (1972); Commonwealth v. Nolan's Estate, 345 Pa. 98, 26 A.2d 308 (1942); Cochrane's Estate, 342 Pa. 108, 20 A.2d 305 (1941).
In 1964 Lois H. Brownback (Depositor and appellee) opened a savings account with her own funds, naming her friend, Elmina R. Brant (Decedent), as joint tenant. It appears that the only reason for the joint account was to provide access to Depositor's savings if she should need them, at a time when she was unable, due to illness or other reasons, to make a withdrawal. No present or future transfer of any interest in the funds deposited was intended.
Decedent died in 1972. The Commonwealth assessed one half the joint account as an asset of her estate under section 241 of the Inheritance and Estate Tax Act of 1961.*fn1 Depositor appealed the assessment of the tax
to the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Orphans' Court Division, which sustained her appeal.*fn2 It reasoned that section 241 does not apply where there is no actual transfer of any interest in the property "jointly" held.*fn3 In its opinion, the court noted that Olson Estate, 447 Pa. 483, 291 A.2d 95 (1972) (holding that in the absence of fraud, accident or mistake in opening the account, joint accounts of the type here at issue are taxable under the Inheritance and Estate Tax Act of 1961), was apparently controlling, but attempted to distinguish that case from the present situation.*fn4 As that cannot successfully be done, we reverse.*fn5
In Olson Estate, as in this case, the surviving joint tenant had contributed all of the funds in a joint account. The orphans' court specifically found that the survivor had rebutted the presumption that he intended to make a gift to his deceased co-tenant, thus indicating that the account there was also a convenience account. Nevertheless, we ...