Walter B. Morris, Petitioner
Pennsylvania Treasury Department Bureau of Unclaimed Property, Respondent
Submitted: September 30, 2016
BEFORE: HONORABLE MARY HANNAH LEAVITT, President Judge
HONORABLE MICHAEL H. WOJCIK, Judge HONORABLE JAMES GARDNER
COLINS, Senior Judge
GARDNER COLINS, Senior Judge
B. Morris (Claimant), pro se, petitions for review
of an order of the Pennsylvania Treasury Department, Bureau
of Unclaimed Property, under Article XIII.1 of The Fiscal
Code, entitled Disposition of Abandoned and Unclaimed
Property (Unclaimed Property Law),  that denied his claim for an
escheated savings account. For the reasons set forth below,
property at issue here, Property ID No. 6382886, is a
statement savings account in the amount of $688.33 in the
names of Geraldine Morris and Brenda D. Coleman (Brenda
Coleman) that was escheated to the Pennsylvania Treasury
Department (Department). (Hearing Officer Decision Finding of
Fact (F.F.) ¶1.) Claimant is the son of Geraldine Morris
and the half-brother of Brenda Coleman. (Id. F.F.
¶¶2, 4.) Brenda Coleman was the daughter of
Geraldine Morris and Calvin Coleman, who was not
Claimant's father. (Id.) Geraldine Morris died
in 1999. (Id. F.F. ¶3.) Brenda Coleman died on
September 7, 2011. (Id. F.F. ¶4.) Calvin
Coleman was alive at the time of Brenda Coleman's death
and subsequently died on April 30, 2015. (Certified Record
(C.R.) Item 16, Hearing Transcript (H.T.) at 4.)
2006, before Brenda Coleman's death, Claimant wrote to
the Department's Bureau of Unclaimed Property (Bureau)
asserting that Geraldine Morris was deceased and that Brenda
Coleman was an invalid unable to walk or talk, and seeking to
claim Property ID No. 6382886 as Geraldine Morris's next
of kin. (C.R. Item 1, Ex. B1.) The Bureau, in response,
requested that Claimant provide a copy of a power of attorney
for Brenda Coleman. (Id., Ex. B2; C.R. Item 16, H.T.
at 4-5.) Claimant took no further action on this claim.
2012, after Brenda Coleman's death, Claimant filed the
claim at issue in this appeal, asserting that he is entitled
to Property ID No. 6382886 as Geraldine Morris's sole
surviving child. (C.R. Item 1 Exs. C1, D2.) On July 11, 2013,
the Bureau denied the claim on the ground that Brenda
Coleman's heir was entitled to the property because she
was the last surviving owner. (Id. Ex. F2.) Claimant
filed a further affidavit in support of this claim asserting
that he was entitled to Property ID No. 6382886 as Brenda
Coleman's heir because he was her brother. (Id.
Ex. F1.) On July 31, 2015, the Bureau advised Claimant that
the claim was denied for the reasons set forth in its July
11, 2013 denial letter. (Id. Ex. F3.) On August 24,
2015, Claimant filed a petition for review appealing the
denial of his claim to the Department, and a hearing on the
appeal was held on January 5, 2016 before a hearing officer.
At this hearing, Claimant stipulated to the dates of death of
Geraldine Morris, Brenda Coleman and Calvin Coleman. (C.R.
Item 16, H.T. at 4.) Claimant also testified that Geraldine
Morris was his mother and that Calvin Coleman was not his
father. (Id. at 6-7.) Claimant did not make any
claim or introduce any evidence at the hearing that Calvin
Coleman was disqualified from inheriting from his daughter
March 31, 2016, the hearing officer issued a decision denying
Claimant's claim. The hearing officer held that Brenda
Coleman became the sole owner of Property ID No. 6382886 when
Geraldine Morris, the co-owner, predeceased her and that when
Brenda Coleman died, the property passed to her father Calvin
Coleman, who was alive at the time, as her heir. (Hearing
Officer Decision at 5-7 & Conclusion of Law (C.L.)
¶3.) The hearing officer concluded that because Claimant
was not Calvin Coleman's son, Claimant was not a person
to whom Calvin Coleman's property passed when Calvin
Coleman died and that Claimant therefore had no interest in
Property ID No. 6382886. (Id. at 6-7 & C.L.
¶¶ 2, 4.) This appeal followed.
burden of proof in an administrative proceeding under the
Unclaimed Property Law is on the claimant to show by a
preponderance of the evidence that he is entitled to the
property that he seeks. Lepre v. Department of
Treasury, (Pa. Cmwlth., No. 1186 C.D. 2012, filed March
4, 2013), slip op. at 5, 2013 WL 3960879 at *3; Estate of
Dellenberger v. Bureau of Unclaimed Property, (Pa.
Cmwlth., No. 2688 C.D. 2010, filed October 11, 2011), slip
op. at 7, 2011 WL 10893868 at *3; see also Agostino v.
Township of Collier, 968 A.2d 258, 269 (Pa. Cmwlth.
2009) (standard of proof in administrative proceedings is
preponderance of the evidence). The hearing officer correctly
concluded that Claimant failed to show that he has any
entitlement to Property ID No. 6382886.
the savings account was a joint account of Geraldine Morris
and Brenda Coleman, Brenda Coleman became the sole owner of
the funds in the account by right of survivorship when
Geraldine Morris predeceased her. See Section
6304(a) of the Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code, 20 Pa.
C.S. § 6304(a) ("Any sum remaining on deposit at
the death of a party to a joint account belongs to the
surviving party or parties as against the estate of the
decedent unless there is clear and convincing evidence of a
different intent at the time the account is created").
When Brenda Coleman died in 2011, Property ID No. 6382886
passed to her heirs under Section 2103 of the Probate,
Estates and Fiduciaries Code. Under Section 2103, where there
is no surviving spouse and decedent has no children, the
decedent's property passes to her parents, not to her
siblings. 20 Pa. C.S. § 2103(1)-(3). Section 2103
expressly provides that property passes to the decedent's
brothers and sisters only "[i]f no parent survives the
decedent." 20 Pa. C.S. § 2103(3). As the hearing
officer correctly concluded, because Brenda Coleman's
father, Calvin Coleman, survived her, Property ID No. 6382886
passed to him and not to Claimant as Brenda Coleman's
brother. Although Calvin Coleman is now deceased, Property ID
No. 6382886 belongs to his estate. Claimant is not among the
persons to whom Calvin Coleman's property passed under
Section 2103 of the Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code
because Claimant is not a child of Calvin Coleman and is not
a parent, brother, grandparent, or uncle of Calvin Coleman or
a child or grandchild of any of his siblings, grandparents,
uncles or aunts. 20 Pa. C.S. § 2103(1)-(5).
argues that Calvin Coleman's right to inherit from Brenda
Coleman's estate is barred because he allegedly abandoned
and failed to support her. This argument fails for lack of
evidence. Section 2106(b) of the Probate, Estates and
Fiduciaries Code provides that
[a]ny parent who, for one year or upwards previous to the
death of the parent's minor or dependent child, has:
(1) failed to perform the duty to support the minor or
dependent child or who, for one year, has deserted the minor
or dependent child …
shall have no right or interest under this chapter in the
real or personal estate of the minor or dependent child. The
determination under paragraph (1) shall be made by the court
after considering the quality, nature and extent of the
parent's contact with the child and ...