No. 244 March Term, 1977, Appeal from the Decree of Orphans' Court dated September 28, 1977, of the Court of Common Pleas of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, Orphans' Court Division at Estate No. 3-73-382.
James G. Callas, Callas & Graff, Kittanning, for appellant.
Blair F. Green, Green & Bish, Kittanning, for appellee.
Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Manderino and Larsen, JJ.
John C. Bowser died testate on November 17, 1973. His will provided that his living children and the surviving spouse of his deceased child "share and share alike" in his estate. On December 9, 1974, his daughter, appellant Margaret Tatsak, executrix of the decedent's estate, filed a first and final account of the estate in the Orphans' Court Division of the Court of Common Pleas of Armstrong County. Appellees excepted to appellant's failure to include in decedent's estate the proceeds of a joint savings account. Appellant contended that she had been given, as an inter vivos gift, a joint tenancy with right of survivorship in the account and that as survivor the proceeds were hers and not part of decedent's estate. The court sustained appellees' exception.
This Court vacated the decree and remanded for an evidentiary hearing on the circumstances of the opening of the account and the contents of the signature card which created it. 470 Pa. 154, 367 A.2d 1088 (1977). After a hearing, the orphans' court again sustained appellees' exception and held that the proceeds of the joint savings account belonged to the estate. The orphans' court concluded that decedent did not intend to make an inter vivos gift, but rather intended to create a "convenience account" to enable appellant to pay his bills.
The only question before the Court is whether, in light of the joint tenancy with right of survivorship signature card, the evidence is sufficient to support the orphans' court's conclusion that appellees satisfied their burden of showing by clear, precise and convincing evidence that decedent did not make a gift inter vivos to appellant-survivor. We hold that it is not and reverse. Our determination of the issue presented is guided by two well-established legal
principles: (1) Execution of a signature card creating a joint savings account with a right of survivorship is sufficient to establish an inter vivos gift to the joint tenant by the depositor of the funds; (2) Introduction into evidence of a duly executed joint account signature card shifts the burden of proof to those who seek to bar enforcement of the survivorship terms of the writing and they must meet that burden with clear, precise and convincing evidence.*fn1 E. g., Estate of Lux, 480 Pa. 256, 389 A.2d 1053 (1979); Estate of Cilvik, 439 Pa. 522, 267 A.2d 836 (1970); Fenstermaker Estate, 413 Pa. 645, 198 A.2d 857 (1964); Furjanick Estate, 375 Pa. 484, 100 A.2d 85 (1953).
At the evidentiary hearing, appellant introduced into evidence the duly executed Armstrong County Trust Co. signature card which created the account here in controversy.*fn2 Thus, ...