Appeal from the Order entered December 17, 1986 in the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County, Orphans Division, at No. 385 - 1986.
Joseph V. Agresti, Erie, for appellant.
Cirillo, President Judge, and Hoffman and Hester, JJ.
[ 369 Pa. Super. Page 215]
This is an appeal from the lower court's order determining the parties' respective rights as established by an antenuptial agreement and the laws of intestacy. Appellant, the decedent's widow, contends that the lower court erred in concluding that (1) the antenuptial agreement provided for her to receive a one-fourth share of decedent's estate; (2) appellees, decedent's children, did not breach the antenuptial agreement; (3) appellant is only entitled to a life estate in the marital domain and not the net rental income from that property; (4) appellant is not entitled to share in
[ 369 Pa. Super. Page 216]
the income from the assets of decedent's estate; and (5) she is not entitled to receive the accrued interest on her share of the estate. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the order of the court below.
Prior to their marriage on June 19, 1959, decedent and appellant entered into an antenuptial agreement which was drafted by decedent's attorney. Decedent died intestate on December 7, 1971 and was survived by appellant and his three children by a prior marriage. On January 19, 1972, appellee Dominic Barilla, one of decedent's children, filed a petition to have letters of administration issued to him in an effort to be appointed administrator of decedent's estate. Appellant contested the appointment and requested that she be appointed administratrix. The parties subsequently agreed to allow decedent's bank to act as administrator. After several attempts at settlement negotiations, the bank declined to proceed as administrator because the parties failed to fully cooperate. On March 1, 1984, Barilla, again, filed a petition to have letters of administration issued to him. Following a hearing, the court appointed the respective attorneys for the parties as co-administrators of the estate. Thereafter, when the co-administrators could not agree on the values of the assets of the estate, appellant's attorney filed a petition for an accounting and filing of inventory. Following a hearing, the lower court held that the antenuptial agreement was valid and that appellant was a creditor of the estate entitled to a one-fourth share of the estate. The parties filed post-trial motions and this appeal followed.*fn1
Appellant first contends that the lower court erred in not determining that the intent of decedent was to provide her
[ 369 Pa. Super. Page 217]
with a one-third share of the estate in accordance with the laws of intestacy rather than a one-fourth share as stated in the antenuptial agreement.*fn2 We disagree.
One of the chief purposes of an antenuptial agreement is to alter the statutory provisions that the Pennsylvania legislature has enacted for the benefit of the surviving spouse. Emery Estate, 362 Pa. 142, 147, 66 A.2d 262, 265 (1949); In re Estate of Geyer, 338 Pa. Superior Ct. 157, 165, 487 A.2d 901, 905 (1985). It is an instrument of contract which entails the private undertakings between a husband and wife. Accordingly, such an agreement is governed by the law of contracts. Hollman v. Hollman, 347 Pa. Superior Ct. 289, 300, 500 A.2d 837, 843 (1985). A court's review of a contract is confined to its interpretation of the agreement. Steuart v. McChesney, 498 Pa. 45, 51, 444 A.2d 659, 661 (1982).
In interpreting a contract, the intention of the parties must be ascertained from the complete writing and each and every part of it must be taken into consideration and given effect if reasonably possible.
[ 369 Pa. Super. Page 218]
Laub v. Laub, 351 Pa. Superior Ct. 110, 116, 505 A.2d 290, 293 (1986); see International Org. Masters, Mates and Pilots of America, Local No. 2, v. International Org. Page 218} Masters, Mates and Pilots of ...