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Estate of Gentry v. Diamond Rock Hill Realty, LLC

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

February 20, 2015

THE ESTATE OF PATRICIA AMELIE LOGAN GENTRY, DECEASED, Appellant
v.
DIAMOND ROCK HILL REALTY, LLC, Appellee

Submitted December 10, 2014.

Page 195

Appeal from the Order Entered on June 19, 2014. In the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County. Orphans' Court at No.: O.C. No. 2013-E0427. Before FRITSCH, J.

Harris R. Rosen, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Richard D. Magee, Jr., Doylestown, for appellee.

BEFORE: LAZARUS, J., WECHT, J., and STRASSBURGER, J.[*] OPINION BY WECHT, J.

OPINION

Page 196

WECHT, J.:

John Devlin (" Devlin" ), executor of the Estate of Patricia Amelie Logan Gentry, appeals a June 19, 2014 order entered by the orphans' court. In that order, the learned orphans' court sustained the preliminary objections of Diamond Rock Hill Realty, LLC (" Diamond" ), to Devlin's petition for citation to show cause why Diamond should not return real property to the Estate or why a judgment should not be entered against Diamond. We reverse.

Patricia Amelie Logan Gentry (" Decedent" ), a resident of Robeson County, North Carolina, died testate on July 17, 2011. At the time of her death, Decedent owned real property located at 523 Parkway Drive in Bucks County, Pennsylvania (" the Property" ). Pursuant to Decedent's Will, which she executed on May 14, 2011, Decedent nominated Devlin as executor of her Estate and directed Devlin " in his unbridled discretion" to " cause [the Property] to be sold by private or public sale." Orphans' Court Opinion (" O.C.O." ), 8/11/2014, at 1-2. Under the terms of the Will, Decedent's granddaughter, Cynthia Gentry, was to receive $20,000.00 from the Property's net sale proceeds.

On August 17, 2011, the Decedent allegedly executed a deed conveying the Property to Diamond. The deed was prepared by Alpert Abstract, LLC (" Alpert" ), a title insurance company. On the final page of the instrument, a Robeson County, North Carolina notary public certified that Decedent personally appeared before her and executed the deed on August 17, 2011. And yet, the Decedent unquestionably could not have conveyed the Property to Diamond on August 17, 2011. How do we know this? Decedent had died thirty-one days earlier.

On October 19, 2011, a North Carolina court probated Decedent's Will and appointed Devlin as executor of the Estate. On July 17, 2013, Devlin filed a petition for citation in the orphans' court division of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County.[1] Therein, Devlin requested that a

Page 197

citation be issued compelling Diamond and Alpert to show cause why they should not return the Property to Decedent's Estate, or, in the alternative, why judgment should not be entered against them for $85,000.00. Specifically, Devlin averred that the August 17, 2011 conveyance was " patently void on its face and fraudulent," and sought to have title to the property (or monetary damages) returned to the Estate. Devlin's Petition for Citation, 7/17/2013, at 2. The petition further alleged that neither the Estate, nor Devlin on its behalf, received any proceeds from the sale of the Property, and that Devlin made no distribution arising from the sale of the Property, as was required under the terms of Decedent's Will.

On September 24, 2013, the orphans' court directed Diamond and Alpert to respond to the petition's averments by October 21, 2013. On October 21, 2013, both Alpert and Diamond filed preliminary objections to Devlin's petition. On January 23, 2014, the orphans' court sustained Alpert's preliminary objections upon the basis that the orphans' court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Devlin's claims, and dismissed the petition as to Alpert. On June 19, 2014, following a hearing on Diamond's preliminary objections, the orphans' court similarly dismissed Devlin's petition as to Diamond for want of subject matter jurisdiction.

On July 17, 2014, Devlin timely filed a notice of appeal. The orphans' court ordered Devlin to file a concise statement of errors complained of on appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b). On July 21, 2014, Devlin timely complied. On August 11, 2014, ...


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