No. 129 JANUARY TERM, 1978, No. 248 JANUARY TERM, 1979, Appeal from the Decree of March 3, 1978, and from the Decree of May 24, 1979 of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, Orphans' Court Division at No. 295 of 1976.
Peter A. Deliberty, Upper Darby, for appellant in No. 129 and appellee in No. 248.
Robert B. Ely, III, Media, Donald J. Farage, Philadelphia, for appellee in No. 129 and appellants in No. 248.
Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Larsen and Flaherty, JJ. Nix, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case. Roberts, J., concurred in the result.
These cases involve two (2) appeals which were argued together and may be disposed of in one opinion. Appeal # 129 was filed by Rose Greco, the Executrix of the Estate of Thomas Pitone, a/k/a Thomas J. Pitone, Deceased, from a Decree of the Orphans' Court determining ownership of a joint bank account to be in decedent's estate.*fn1 The second appeal # 248 was filed by Helen Taddeo and Elizabeth DiPhillips from a Decree of the Orphans' Court dismissing their exceptions to the first account filed by the executrix. These exceptions concern liability of the estate for certain costs and counsel fees, credit for medical expenses paid by insurance, surcharge of executrix for failure to invest estate funds, and removal of the executrix.
On April 15, 1974 decedent opened Philadelphia Savings Fund Society (PSFS) Account No. K433124. On October 15,
decedent executed his Last Will and Testament providing for equal division among his three sisters of (1) any cash in the bank at the time of his death, (2) the proceeds of his two Ten Thousand Dollar U.S. Government Savings Bonds and (3) the net proceeds from the sale of his lots in Aruba. On November 15, 1974 decedent was admitted to the hospital for exploratory surgery. The next day decedent and Rose Greco (one of his three sisters and the one with whom he lived) purportedly closed PSFS Account No. K433124 in decedent's name alone and transferred the funds to PSFS Account No. K434339, a joint account with the name "Thomas Pitone, Rose Greco either to draw". Decedent was discharged from the hospital November 28, 1974. On January 10, 1975, decedent was again admitted for the same condition, and on February 15, 1975, he died. In the interim, on January 13, 1975, Rose Greco had withdrawn $30,000 from the account.
Rose Greco now claims sole ownership of the funds in Account No. K434339 as survivor of the joint account.
The Courts have always scrutinized with a keen and somewhat incredulous eye transactions by which a decedent strips himself of all available property shortly before his death. Wise's Estate, 182 Pa. 168, 171, 37 A. 936 (1897). At the time the account in question was opened, it constituted a major portion of decedent's assets. Looking to the totality of the circumstances, the Court below found that if the joint account was, in fact, created by the decedent, it was meant only as a convenience. Only one month prior to the creation of the joint account, decedent had executed a will indicating a settled intention to deal with all his sisters equally. This intention was expressed three times in that instrument. On the other hand, there is nothing in the ...