Appeal from the Judgment Entered March 14, 2011 In the Court of Common Pleas of Perry County Civil Division at No(s): CV 2007-915
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Panella, J.
BEFORE: STEVENS, P.J., PANELLA, J., and MUNDY, J.
W. Morrison, Esquire, by the Honorable Edward E. Guido, Court of Common Pleas of Perry County. We affirm.
The trial court summarized the pertinent facts as follows:
Plaintiff Mabel Smith and her husband Dick had two sons, Richard and Cris, born 18 years apart. They also had two farms, the upper farm and the lower farm. The entire family, including Richard's wife and their son, lived together on the lower farm until Cris was eleven years old. At that time Dick, Mabel, and Cris moved to the upper farm while Richard and his family remained on the lower farm.
Dick was a strong willed man. While he and Mabel owned both farms, she always deferred to his wishes when it came to business decisions. In 1985, about ten years after they moved to the upper farm, they sold the lower farm to Richard. He paid $130,000 for the 85 acre farm with livestock and equipment. About 5 years later they added Cris to the deed on the upper farm which contained almost 250 acres. Dick and Mabel owned an undivided one half interest and Cris owned the other undivided one half interest. At the same time the parents prepared codicils to their wills. The codicils required Cris to pay $80,000 to the estate of the last to die for their interest in the upper farm.
Dick died in 2003. Mabel became the sole owner of a one half interest in the upper farm by operation of law. Within a week Richard called a meeting with Mabel and Cris to question the arrangement with regard to the upper farm. He protested that $80,000 was not nearly enough to pay for a farm he felt was worth $1 million.
Mabel was upset by the conflict between her sons. While she wanted to do what was "fair", the boys had very different ideas as to what that was. She decided to contact a lawyer. In February of 2004 she had her son Richard take her to see her niece's husband, defendant Gerald Morrison. She told Mr. Morrison that she wanted to transfer her one half interest in the upper farm to Richard. She also wanted to change her will by revoking the codicil and dividing her estate equally between the boys.
[Attorney Morrison] attempted to discourage [Mabel] from transferring her interest in the property. He further advised that if she insisted on doing so she should at least have Richard sign a demand note for $100,000 in case she ever needed the money.
Mabel made a second appointment in May 2004 to which she brought both sons. She was convinced that transferring her interest to Richard was the fair thing to do. She was hopeful that [Attorney Morrison] could smooth things over between her boys. That was not to be. The meeting ended in a shouting match between the brothers.
Over the next 2 ½ years Mabel had several contacts with [Attorney Morrison]. ON July 1, 2004 she instructed him to prepare the deed, will and promissory note they had previously discussed. On July 12, 2004 the documents were ready to be executed. [Mabel] executed only the will at that time. She decided to take some additional time to think about the deed. She did, however, tell [Attorney Morrison] to forget about the demand note.
About a year later, in September 2005, Mabel had [Attorney Morrison] change her will. The revised will had her share of the upper farm go to Cris for $80,000. It also provided for Richard to receive that $80,000 payment as a specific bequest. In October 2006 she returned to [Attorney Morrison's] office. This time she executed the deed to Richard which had been prepared more than two years earlier. She further instructed ...