Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Centre County, in case of In Re: Estate of Charles B. Munro, No. 14-83-0321.
Arthur F. McNulty, Assistant Counsel, with him, George T. Bell, Chief Counsel, for appellant.
William T. Fleming, with him, Gary A. Delafield, Delafield, Lisko & McGee, for appellee.
Judges Craig and Barry, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Barry. Senior Judge Kalish dissents.
[ 101 Pa. Commw. Page 451]
This appeal results from an order of the Centre County Court of Common Pleas which found not taxable certain assets of the deceased, Charles B. Munro. The appraisement by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue (Department) had been challenged by the within appellee, Bertha V. Sampsel.
Munro died on October 18, 1983, and, within a year, an inheritance tax return for his estate was filed. That filing was amended by a supplemental return submitted shortly thereafter. The two documents listed as jointly held with one Bertha V. Sampsel (Sampsel),*fn1 three savings accounts: two conventional accounts in the
[ 101 Pa. Commw. Page 452]
amounts of $2,695.65 and $16,855.19 and a certificate of deposit valued at $17,067.31.
The Department assessed the return and determined that the jointly held property was subject to inheritance tax. See Section 1708 of the Pennsylvania Inheritance and Estate Tax Act (Act),*fn2 72 Pa. C.S. § 1708. Sampsel appealed the appraisement, maintaining that the "accounts were established as a matter of convenience for decedent in handling Petitioner's [Sampsel's] financial affairs. Decedent had no beneficial interest in the . . . accounts." Appeal of Appraisement, Averment No. 6.
Proceedings then commenced in the trial court. Sampsel appeared and testified that the account monies were entirely her own, and that she had merely given Munro charge of the sums while she was sick and hospitalized. She repeatedly stated that "we didn't have no joint account," but did not deny that her signature appeared on the joint signature cards which established the accounts. The Department, meanwhile, presented no evidence, but rather relied upon the settled rule that "convenience accounts" are taxable in lieu of fraud, accident or mistake. See Brief for Department (Common Pleas Submission), at 6 (citing, inter alia, Estate of Brant, 463 Pa. 230, 344 A.2d 806 (1975)).
The trial court sustained the appeal, having believed Sampsel's testimony and concluding:
[T]his Court [holds] that there was clear and convincing evidence that Ms. Sampsel merely wished Mr. Munro to be a 'temporary trustee' of the assets sub judice. The creation of the instant ...