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05/05/97 GEORGE R. SWEENEY DECEASED APPEAL PHILIP

May 5, 1997

IN RE: GEORGE R. SWEENEY, DECEASED, APPEAL OF: PHILIP A. QUATTRONE AND THE ACCOUNTING PROFESSIONALS, P.C.


Appeal from the Order in the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County, Orphans Court Division, No. 65-92-948. Before MIHALICH, J.

Before: Tamilia, J., Saylor, J., and Schiller, J. Opinion BY Tamilia, J.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Tamilia

OPINION BY TAMILIA, J.:

This is an appeal from the Order of May 21, 1996 disposing of a petition for fees related to the administration of the estate of George R. Sweeney, who died on May 20, 1992.

On June 1, 1992, appellant/Philip A. Quattrone, who is employed as a public accountant with Accounting Professionals, P.C., was one of four executors appointed to handle the estate of George Sweeney. On August 16, 1995, he filed a Petition for Rule to Show Cause Why Fees Should Not be Paid seeking compensation for services he performed as co-executor and accountant for the estate. A hearing was scheduled for October 2, 1995, however the court appointed a master to conduct an evidentiary hearing and make recommendations to assist the court in resolving the issues raised in the petition. The hearing was held on April 24, 1996, following which the master prepared a report, which included findings of fact, Conclusions of law and recommendations to the court. Appellant filed exceptions to the report following which, on May 21, 1996, an Order was entered, which adopted the report in its entirety. Specifically, the court dismissed appellant's petition as it related to the payment of executor fees to him and held that each executor was entitled to $13,362 and appellant was entitled to an additional $10,325 as fair compensation for accounting services rendered. The court also entered a judgment against appellant in the amount of $36,323, representing the amount he charged the estate ($60,010) in excess of his allowable compensation, and directed the remaining executors to each refund the sum of $46,747 to the estate as overpayment for services performed.

Prior to addressing the issue on appeal, we will decide appellees' *fn1 motion to quash for failure to file a motion for post-trial relief in accordance with Pa.R.C.P. 227.1(c)(2). Specifically, they claim appellant filed a direct appeal to this Court following the entry of the May 21, 1996 Order without first filing proposed findings of fact and Conclusions of law to either the master or the court or filing post-trial motions within ten days of the Order. As such, appellees argue appellant has failed to preserve any issues for appeal.

We find, however, that appellant did correctly file his appeal to this Court in accordance with the Supreme Court Orphans' Court Rules and the local rules of Westmoreland County. The "pleading and practice in orphans court shall conform to pleading and practice in equity, unless otherwise prescribed by statute, supreme court rule, or local orphans' court special order or rule." In re Adoption of Hamilton, 362 Pa. Super. 249, , 523 A.2d 1176, 1177 (1987); see also Pa.O.C.Rule 3.1. "Exceptions shall be filed at such place and time, shall be in such form, copies thereof served and Disposition made thereof as local rules shall prescribe." Pa.O.C.Rule 7.1. Exceptions. Here, the Orphans' Court rules for Westmoreland County specifically provide:

(a) Except as provided in (b) below, and except for interlocutory decrees and orders, all decrees and orders are final unless specifically captioned by the court as a decree nisi. No exceptions shall be filed to final decrees and orders, and they must be appealed directly to the Superior Court.

(b) Exceptions to any order or decree nisi must be filed with the clerk within ten days after notice of the decree. Issues not raised in the exceptions shall be deemed waived. If no exceptions are filed, the decree shall become nonappealable.

Westmoreland County Orphans' Court Rule W0109(a) and (b). Accordingly, since the court Order of May 21, 1996 was captioned an "Order of Court", we find the above rules applicable and no exceptions were necessary.

Appellant now claims the court erroneously relied upon the master's report without considering his exceptions and without providing the parties an opportunity to persuade the Judge. He argues the Judge did not hear testimony or arguments of counsel, but rather decided this matter based solely on the master's report without affording the parties due process.

Our scope of review of a decree or order entered by the Orphans' Court is extremely limited. We will modify a decree only if it is not supported by competent or adequate evidence, if an error of law has been committed, or if the trial court abused its discretion or capriciously disbelieved credible or competent evidence.

In Re Estate of Maljovec, 412 Pa. Super. 80, , 602 A.2d 1317, 1319 (1991).

Here, the record reflects the master conducted a thorough hearing on April 24, 1996, following which he submitted a detailed 17-page report in conformity with Pa.O.C.Rule 8.4, Form of Master's Report. We note the hearing was transcribed and the report was filed within ninety (90) days pursuant to Pa.O.C.Rule 8.2 Filing of Report. The court thereafter, noting it had reviewed the case and examined the report, adopted the master's report, findings of fact and Conclusions of law as the court's own. Appellant has provided this Court with no caselaw or statutory law to support his assertion the trial court erred in relying on the master's report. Rather, he makes a bald, unsubstantiated argument with absolutely no citations to authority as required by Pa.R.A.P. 2119(b), Argument. Furthermore, appellant does not allege yet alone prove the court's final decision was flawed or based upon incredible or incompetent evidence. An exhaustive review of statutory law, caselaw and the rules of civil and orphans' court procedure provides no support for appellant's position that it is mandatory upon the trial court to grant a hearing, take testimony or in any other manner set aside the findings and Conclusions of the master absent a finding of error in applying the law to the facts, or failure by the master to fully consider all matters required to be heard. ...


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