No. 52 March Term, 1979, No. 53 March Term, 1979, Appeal from Decree of the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, Orphans' Court Division, at No. 65-77-1919 and No. 65-77-1937.
Spencer D. Hirshberg, Meyer, Darragh, Buckler, Bebenek & Eck, Pittsburgh, for appellants.
John Duff, Lawrence Barth, Deputy Attys. Gen., Philadelphia, for appellee.
Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty and Kauffman, JJ. Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien and Nix, JJ., concur in the result.
These are appeals from the final Decrees of the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County, Orphans' Court
Division. The lower court upheld an inheritance tax assessment on securities held in a joint account created by decedent, Wallace T. Brown, naming himself and his sister, Marie B. Long, as joint tenants with right of survivorship. Marie B. Long died on September 14, 1977; her brother died on November 11, 1977. It is conceded that the account was created in contemplation of death. Inheritance tax was assessed on that part of the joint property passing to Wallace T. Brown for his sister's 50% joint interest in the joint tenancy created by Brown and passing back to him at her death. Later, inheritance tax was assessed again on the total amount of this property (100% of the total joint account) in Wallace T. Brown's estate, when he died weeks later. Appellant contends that imposition of the tax on the property passing from his sister's 50% interest in the joint account back to him was in violation of the applicable statute.
The critical facts are that Wallace T. Brown, who was ill with terminal cancer, created a joint tenancy with right of survivorship account in certain securities valued at approximately fifty-four thousand ($54,000.00) dollars at Merrill Lynch, Peirce, Fenner & Smith in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The account was in the names of "Wallace T. Brown and Marie Long, JT WROS". Prior to the creation of the joint tenancy, Brown was the sole owner of the securities. The record establishes that these securities could have been sold by either party after the account was opened.
At the time of the creation of the joint account, Brown's sister appeared to be in excellent health. She died suddenly, however, on September 14, 1977, several weeks before her brother. The Commonwealth imposed an inheritance tax on Marie B. Long's 50% share of the joint account, which then once again became the sole property of her brother. The tax was imposed on one-half of the value of the joint account, at the rate of 15%. Appellant argues that where an owner of property, in contemplation of his own death, transfers such property to himself and another as joint tenants with the right of survivorship, and the transferee thereafter
predeceases the dying transferor, the property is not subject to inheritance tax both in the estate of the ...