filed: July 13, 1984.
IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF GEORGE B. RUDY, JR., DECEASED. APPEAL OF MARY C. LAU AND MARGARET A. LAU, EXCEPTANTS
No. 190 Harrisburg 1983, Appeal from the Final Decree entered on the 2nd day of May, 1983 in the Court of Common Pleas of York County, Pennsylvania, Orphan's Court Division at No. 67-80-732 (Proceeding: Exceptions to Adjudication).
Lewis P. Sterling, York, for appellant.
Byron H. LeCates, York, for Williams, participating party.
Robert M. Strickler, York and Lawrence Barth, Deputy Attorney General, for The Visiting Nurse, participating party.
Wickersham, Olszewski and Hoffman, JJ.
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This is an appeal from the final decree of the Orphan's Court of York County dismissing appellant's exceptions to the Chancellor's decree nisi and adjudication. For the reasons below, we affirm.
On June 23, 1980, George B. Rudy died, leaving a will dated April 1, 1976, and a codicil thereto dated February 9, 1979. Item III of the will stated: "I give my personal
[ 329 Pa. Super. Page 461]
effects and all items of Rudy Family memorabilia . . . to . . . George W. Williams, III [appellee] . . . ." Item VIII of Mr. Rudy's will bequeathed all of his real property, "together with the contents thereof", to his friends, Mary and Margaret Lau [appellants]. The residue of the estate was placed in trust, with the income thereof payable perpetually to several charitable organizations, among them the York College of Pennsylvania.
Appellants contest the disposition of certain items found locked in a filing cabinet on the deceased's premises. These items, with an estimated fair market value well in excess of $500,000 include: municipal bonds, corporate stock, a collection of rare coins, several valuable watches, a sizable amount of cash and an assortment of fine jewelry.
Shortly after Mr. Rudy's death, a proposed account and distribution was filed for audit by the executor of the estate. The Chancellor held that the above mentioned assets passed to appellee as "personal effects" under Item III of the will. Appellants excepted to this finding; they claimed these assets were "contents" of Mr. Rudy's home that belonged to them by virtue of Item VIII of the will. The court en banc, agreeing with the logic of the Chancellor, dismissed appellants' exceptions and awarded assets to appellee.
Appellants challenge the validity of that disposition. They raise myriad substantive issues. Before we address those issues, we must resolve appellants' sole procedural claim.
Appellants argue that the lower court erred when it allowed appellee to file an untimely objection to the account. Appellee filed the objection after the statutory period for such filing had expired. The record reveals that the account had originally been filed for audit on July 1, 1981. Before this audit, appellants filed several objections challenging the proposed account. At the call of the audit list, the audit was continued pending disposition of those objections.
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Thereafter, on July 17, 1981, appellee filed his objections to the account. Appellants now contend that this latter filing was untimely under Rule 70.2 and 70.3 of the local rules of court in York County.*fn1 We do not agree.
In Gertzens Estate, 18 Dist. 925 (1909), it was specifically held that where the filing of exceptions to an adjudication has suspended confirmation thereof, other exceptions may be filed nunc pro tunc after the time for filing exceptions had expired.*fn2 Here, appellants' filing of objections delayed the audit beyond its original call date. Under Gertzens Estate, supra, appellee thus became entitled to file objections after the original deadline for filing had expired.*fn3 Therefore, we will not view appellees objections as untimely.
This procedural obstacle behind us, we focus on appellants' main contentions. Appellants argue that the Chancellor erred in holding that testator's bequest of the "contents" of his house did not include the cash, stock, bonds, rare coins, jewelry and watches found therein at the time of his death.
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The Chancellor, in his decision, relied primarily upon McCartney's Estate, 61 D. & C. 112 (1947), where it was held that a bequest of a home and the entire contents thereof, did not include bonds, stock certificates, insurance policies, gold coins, and other personal effects of the testator. We find this case on point with the instant matter.
Similarly, our Supreme Court recently held that a devise of a house "as well as all furnishings within said house", did not include stock certificates, a vehicle title, and a mortgage payable to testator which were found locked in a safe in the devised premises. In re Estate of Baker, 495 Pa. 522, 434 A.2d 1213 (1981).*fn4
In light of this explicit authority, we hold that the Chancellor properly concluded that testator's bequest of the "contents" of his house did not include the cash, stock, bonds, old coins, watches and jewelry found therein.*fn5
Appellants next contend that the testimony of testator's lawyer, secretary, doctor, banker and accountant, was improperly admitted as evidence of testator's subjective interest.*fn6
It is well established that extrinsic evidence is not ordinarily admissible to vary, contradict, or add to the terms of a will to show a different intention on the part of the testator than that disclosed by the language of the will. See Estate of Felice, 487 Pa. 342, 409 A.2d 382 (1979);
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of Pennsylvania -- have stipulated that the coins should undoubtedly pass to appellee.
Appellants final argument focuses on a particular factual finding of the lower court, namely, that testator was occasionally irritable, confused, forgetful, and sometimes incapable of transacting his business affairs. They argue that this finding was not supported by sufficient evidence.
It is well established that a judge's finding of fact, approved by the court en banc, is entitled to the weight of a jury's verdict and will not be disturbed on appeal if supported by adequate evidence. See In re Estate of DiPietro, 306 Pa. Super. 238, 452 A.2d 532 (1982) (and cases cited therein). Instantly, the trial judge based his findings on the testimony of Dr. Langer, the deceased's personal physician. Dr. Langer testified that he had had the opportunity to examine testator on several occasions. During these examinations, he noted several distinct mental characteristics displayed by testator. These characteristics included forgetfulness, loss of memory and confusion. This testimony, based upon personal observance, provided a sufficient basis to support the lower court's finding. Appellants final assignment of error is without merit.*fn8
We are fully aware of the complexities facing trial judges as they attempt to dispose of estates in accordance with the terms of given wills. Instantly, we feel the Chancellor, as well as the court en banc, did an excellent job in interpreting the provisions of George Rudy's will and distributing his estate accordingly. We therefore affirm the final decree dismissing appellants' exceptions to the Chancellor's decree nisi and adjudication.