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ESTATE BERNARD R. HUGHES (02/25/88)

decided: February 25, 1988.

IN RE ESTATE OF BERNARD R. HUGHES, DECEASED. APPEAL OF A. JAMES GRANITO


Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court entered September 15, 1986, at No. 1435 Pittsburgh 1985, affirming an Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Orphans' Court Division, entered November 1, 1985, at No. 4691 of 1984. Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ. Hutchinson, Former Justice, did not participate in the decision of this case.

Author: Mcdermott

[ 517 Pa. Page 411]

OPINION

This is an appeal from an order of the Superior Court which affirmed an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. The latter order dismissed appellant's

[ 517 Pa. Page 412]

    exceptions to an order of the Orphans' Court Division staying the sale of real estate to him and permitting the sale to a subsequent offeror.

The facts are these. Bernard R. Hughes died intestate on September 5, 1984. He was survived by four (4) children, who became his heirs-at-law: Nancy Hughes Solomon, Virginia A. Hughes, Bernard R. Hughes, Jr., and Richard W. Hughes. Letters of administration were issued to Nancy Hughes Solomon. The estate consisted of personalty of less than $10,000 and a house in Pittsburgh.

On December 21, 1984, Mrs. Solomon, acting in her capacity as administratrix, entered into a sales agreement with appellant for the sale of the house. The agreed purchase price was $42,000. Prior to accepting this offer she had obtained appraisals of $40,000 and $39,500. The agreement of sale provided that the sale was, "subject to approval of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pa. of waiver or of posting of bond".

Mrs. Solomon thereupon petitioned the court and provided notice of her petition to her sister and brothers. Her brothers appeared and petitioned the court to stay the proposed sale. They introduced a subsequent offer for the house, dated January 5, 1985, in the amount of $60,000. The offer was subject to a mortgage contingency of $54,000, a broker's fee of $4,200, and approval of the Orphans' Court Division. On January 23, 1985, the court entered an order continuing the disposition of the administratrix's original petition, and authorizing her to accept the subsequent higher offer by executing an agreement of sale for the estate property subject to the approval of the court. A sales agreement was executed with the subsequent offeror, John T. Haretos, on January 24, 1985, and the mortgage contingency was subsequently removed. Notice was then provided to appellant who filed exceptions to the order. The common pleas court, sitting en banc, issued an order sustaining in part appellant's exceptions, but granted leave to the administratrix and/or her brother, Richard W.

[ 517 Pa. Page 413]

Hughes, to file a petition in the Orphans' Division requesting the restraint of the sale to appellant.

Richard W. Hughes filed the petition authorized by the court en banc. Mrs. Solomon and appellant filed answers. Subsequent to a hearing the common pleas court restrained the administratrix from selling or conveying the property to appellant, and authorized her to convey it to Mr. Haretos according to the terms of the subsequent sales agreement.

Appellant filed exceptions. The court of common pleas, again sitting en banc, dismissed them. Appellant appealed to the Superior Court where a panel of that court affirmed the dismissal of his exceptions. In re Estate of Hughes, 357 Pa. Super. 104, 515 A.2d 581 (1986).

Appellant petitioned this Court and we granted allocatur to determine a single issue: whether a court may exercise discretionary powers and set aside a contract for the sale of real property of an intestate estate due to the existence of a higher offer. Resolution of this issue requires an examination of the Decedent's Estates and Fiduciaries Code,*fn1 wherein the General Assembly has enacted legislation directed at this ...


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