No. 82 January Term, 1979, Appeal from the Final Decree Entered Feb. 1, 1979 of the Orphans' Court Division of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, No. 79655 of 1978 Vacating Election to Take Against Will and Inter Vivos Conveyances
Dennis James Lawler, Philadelphia, for appellant.
H. Ober Hess, Philadelphia, for appellee.
O'Brien, C. J., and Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, and Kauffman, JJ. Roberts, J., filed a concurring opinion.
The decedent, George A. Loik, was born in 1903 in Vao, Estonia. He emigrated to the United States and, on April 19, 1974, married one Elizabeth Griesbach, the appellee herein. On September 25, 1977, the decedent died a resident of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, leaving a will bequeathing his probate estate of approximately $4,000.00 to appellee, and a parcel of residential realty located in Abington Township, which was held by decedent and appellee as tenants by the entireties.
On July 21, 1978, appellant herein, Amanda Aleksandrovna Loik, a resident of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic, filed an election to take against the decedent's will, alleging that she was decedent's surviving spouse. Appellee filed a petition to vacate the election, and a hearing on the petition to vacate was held on November 5, 1978.
Appellant did not attend the hearing, but rather, appeared through counsel who offered into evidence a power of attorney executed by appellant in favor of a New York law firm; a document that purports to be a Soviet certificate of marriage; and an ex-parte affidavit executed by appellant in the USSR. The court admitted the power of attorney into evidence, and made the "certificate of marriage" a part of the record of the hearing, but reserved ruling on its admissibility after objections were lodged by appellee to its admission. The court sustained an objection to the admission of the ex-parte affidavit on the grounds that it is hearsay. Appellant then rested, and appellee introduced her 1974 certificate of marriage to the decedent into evidence and rested. On February 1, 1979, the court filed an opinion and order holding that the Soviet "certificate of marriage" on which the court had reserved ruling was inadmissible, and vacated appellant's election to take against the will. Appellant then brought this direct appeal.
The following is an English translation of the aforementioned certificate of marriage:
UNION OF THE SOVIET SOCIAL RPUBLICS
Citizen LOIK/LOYK Georg-Anselm
Place of birth Estonian SSR, VAO