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ESTATE ALFRED V. SIPE (10/31/80)

decided: October 31, 1980.

IN RE THE ESTATE OF ALFRED V. SIPE, DECEASED. APPEAL OF MARY DRABIK


No. 144 MARCH TERM, 1978, Appeal from the Decree of January 19, 1978, and from the Decree of May 3, 1978, of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Orphans' Court Division, at No. 2090 of 1977.

COUNSEL

John J. Klein, Schauffler & Klein, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Wendell G. Freeland, Richard F. Kronz, Freeland & Kronz, Pittsburgh, for appellee.

O'Brien, C. J., and Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty and Kauffman, JJ. Roberts, J., files a dissenting opinion in which O'Brien, C. J., joins.

Author: Flaherty

[ 492 Pa. Page 128]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Alfred V. Sipe died on April 30, 1977. At the time of his death there existed a joint tenancy with right of survivorship savings account containing $48,765.77. The account was in the name of the decedent and appellant, Mary Drabik, a friend of the decedent. Approximately two months after decedent's death on June 27, 1977 appellant withdrew the money and closed the account.

On July 2, 1977, Eleanor A. Sipe, executrix of the estate of decedent, filed a petition in the trial court requesting that the court order appellant to turn over to the estate the money from the savings account. After hearing, the trial court entered a decree in favor of the executrix. This appeal followed.

Appellant contends that the trial court erred in concluding that the decedent had not made a valid gift of the monies in the account to her. We agree and therefore reverse the decree.

The trial court concluded that a gift had not been made because the decedent, when he opened the account, filled out the entire signature card himself by signing both his name and the appellant's name and their Social Security numbers on the card. Appellant's failure to sign the joint signature card was "fatal to her case" according to the trial court. We do not agree.

Although this Court has held on numerous occasions that the "[e]xecution of a signature card creating a joint

[ 492 Pa. Page 129]

    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" and "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," (Emphasis added), Estate of John C. Bowser, 485 Pa. 209, 212, 401 A.2d 733, 734 (1979), it is not the law and we have never held that such proof is the only proof which can establish a gift. All of the circumstances must be considered in determining whether a gift was made or whether the joint account was established for some other purpose. Estate of Cilvik, 439 Pa. 522, ...


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