George E. Christianson, Lewis, Brubaker, Whitman & Christianson, Lebanon, for appellant.
John E. Ruth, David A. Binder, Reading, for appellee, Est. of Herbert Keeney, Dec'd.
Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Jones, C. J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.
This is an appeal*fn1 by John R. Keeney from a decree of the orphans' court division of the court of common pleas of Berks County ordering him to surrender to the estate of his deceased father, Herbert Keeney, the proceeds of a joint bank account standing in the names of Herbert Keeney and John R. Keeney as joint tenants with right of survivorship and two certificates of deposit issued in the same names. Finding the decree to have been in error, we will reverse.
On September 18, 1969, Herbert Keeney, age 74, sold his farm in Jefferson Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania for approximately $16,000. The next day, September 19, Herbert and his oldest son, John, went to the Strausstown branch of the Bank of Pennsylvania and purchased a certificate of deposit for $12,000, all of which was derived from the sale of the farm. On November 13, 1969, Herbert and John returned to the bank and purchased a second certificate of deposit for $6,000. Both certificates were issued in the names of "Herbert Keeney or John Keeney," and John and Herbert each signed a "Joint Certificate of Deposit Contract" with respect to each certificate. The contracts indicated that the certificates were to be held by them as joint tenants with right of survivorship. Between the dates of these transactions, on October 27, Herbert and John opened a joint checking account at the same bank with an initial balance of $500.*fn2 At that time, the parties executed a
signature card which stated that funds deposited in the checking account would be held by them as joint tenants with right of survivorship. It is undisputed that all the funds used to purchase the certificates of deposit were supplied by Herbert Keeney.
After he sold his farm in Jefferson Township, the decedent moved to a house he owned in Rehrersburg, Pennsylvania, where he lived with another son, Alvin Keeney. On January 8, 1971, Herbert and John leased a safe deposit box at the Bank of Pennsylvania in the names of "Herbert Keeney or John R. Keeney", and deposited the two certificates of deposit in the box. Herbert and John each retained a key to the box, but Herbert surrendered his key to John when he was hospitalized for, as it developed, his final illness. During his lifetime, Herbert cashed three of the interest checks paid on the $12,000 certificate of deposit. It appears that all the other checks for interest on the two certificates were either deposited in the checking account or placed in the safe deposit box. At no time prior to Herbert's death did John receive the interest from the certificates of deposit or draw on the checking account.
Herbert Keeney died intestate on November 5, 1972, survived by thirteen children. So far as appears from the record, his mental faculties were unimpaired until the moment of his death. On November 6, 1972, the day after their father's death, Elmer Keeney, Tyrres Keeney and Esther M. Behney, children of Herbert and appellees herein, filed suit in equity seeking an injunction preventing John from cashing the certificates of deposit or drawing on the checking account, and ordering him to deliver the certificates and the account proceeds to Herbert's estate. The suit was brought, presumably, for the benefit of all the intestate heirs of Herbert (i. e., his children) other than John.*fn3
In a decree dated August 12, 1974, the trial court awarded the certificates of deposit and the proceeds of the checking account to the decedent's personal representatives. In the court's view, the evidence established that at the time the joint property interests were created John and Herbert stood in a confidential relationship, which shifted to John Keeney the burden of showing that the transactions in question were the free, voluntary, ...