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Estate of Fuller

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

March 3, 2014

ESTATE OF: CYNTHIA ANN FULLER, LATE OF FAWN TOWNSHIP, YORK COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA, APPEAL OF: SHIRLEY J. WHITMORE

Argued: October 23, 2013.

Page 331

Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, York County, Orphans' Court Division, No(s).: 67-08-0178. Before BLACKWELL, J.

Donald B. Hoyt, York, for appellant.

Michael E. Rowan, Towson, MD, for appellee.

BEFORE: BENDER, P.J., WECHT, and FITZGERALD,[*] JJ. OPINION BY FITZGERALD, J.

OPINION

Page 332

 FITZGERALD, J.:

Appellant, Shirley J. Whitmore, personal representative of the Estate of Cynthia Ann Fuller, deceased (" Decedent" ), appeals from the March 3, 2013 order denying her exceptions to the Orphans' Court's January 9, 2013 order. Appellant claims that the Orphans' Court erred in its application of 20 Pa.C.S. § 2106(b) when it concluded that Appellee, Paul S. Fuller, did not (1) fail to support or (2) desert Decedent, his daughter, in the year prior to her death so as to forfeit his interest in her estate. We hold that when determining whether a parent has deserted a dependent or minor child under 20 Pa.C.S. § 2106(b), the court is not precluded from considering whether a parent has acted willfully and with the intention to permanently abandon a dependent or minor child. Accordingly, we affirm.

Appellant and Appellee are the divorced parents of Decedent. Decedent was killed in an automobile accident on September 3, 2007. Decedent was seventeen years old at the time of her death and died intestate. Following Decedent's death, Appellant sought appointment as the administrator of Decedent's estate. Appellee contested the appointment and a hearing was held on that matter on March 8, 2008. Ultimately, on March 12, 2008, the Register of Wills granted letters of administration to Appellant.

Appellant, as the personal representative of Decedent's estate, then filed suit against the parties responsible for the accident. On July 18, 2012, the estate settled with each of those parties.

On August 9, 2013, Appellant filed a petition to declare Appellee's intestate share of Decedent's estate forfeit under 20 Pa.C.S. § 2106(b). The petition alleged that for at least one year prior to Decedent's death, Appellant had deserted Decedent. Appellee filed an answer opposing the forfeiture petition. The Orphans' Court held a hearing on Appellant's petition following which it issued an order on January 10, 2013, denying the petition. Appellant timely filed exceptions and the Orphans' Court held oral argument on Appellant's exceptions on March 5, 2013. The court dismissed Appellant's exceptions in an order entered on March 8, 2013, and this timely appeal followed. Both the court and Appellant complied with Pa.R.A.P. 1925.

On appeal, Appellant presents one issue with six sub-parts:

Was the Orphans' Court holding that the criteria for forfeiture under 20 Pa.C.S. § 2106(b) were not met contrary to law, contrary to the evidence and an abuse of discretion when
The statute was revised in 2000 and the [Orphans'] [C]ourt interpreted the previous (1984) version;
The [Orphans'] [C]ourt followed In re: Estate of Teaschenko, 393 Pa.Super. 355, 574 A.2d 649 (Pa. Super. 1990) which was a failure to support case, and was ...

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