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In re Estate of Walter

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

June 22, 2018

IN RE: ESTATE OF CARRYL L. WALTER, DECEASED APPEAL OF: LYNN M. WALTER

          Appeal from the Order Entered April 27, 2017 In the Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County Orphans' Court at No(s): 21-2011-00593

          BEFORE: PANELLA, J., OLSON, J., and STEVENS [*] , P.J.E. OPINION BY STEVENS, P.J.E.:

         Appellant, Lynn M. Walter, former Executrix for the estate of Carryl Walter ("Decedent"), appeals from the order entered by the Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County sustaining objections to her accounting upon a finding of improper distributions and misappropriation of funds. We affirm.

         The Orphans' Court sets forth the relevant procedural history and facts as follows:

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

A Decree of Probate and a Grant of Letters Testamentary were entered on May 19, 2011, in the Cumberland County Office of Register of Wills and Clerk of the Orphans' Court for [Decedent's] Will executed on November 12, 2010. [Three years later, after learning of the Estate, the Commonwealth, acting as parens patriae because the will named charities as beneficiaries, filed a petition to void gifts allegedly made pursuant to the Will.] A Citation was issued on May 6, 2014, based on [the Commonwealth's petition]. The Citation was amended on March 3, 2015, to extend the issuance to the Estate's attorney and the Executrix of the Estate, [Appellant], which further alleged misappropriation of funds.
In June 2015, a material conflict was found to exist, and the Appellant was removed, followed by the Grant of Letters of Administration [to Appellee] d/b/n/c/t/a in July 2015. Objections to the Executrix's account were filed in September 2016, and discovery was extended through the calendar year 2016. Thereafter, a hearing was held on the Objections on March 30, 2017, and a decision entered on April 27, 2017. An appeal was filed on April 30, 2017, to Superior Court. . . .
The [Orphans' Court's decision] sustained seven (7) Objections to the former Executrix's Accounting as improperly distributed with specific notation that no finding was made as to proper distribution, malpractice on part of the former Estate's attorney, error of the bank, or set-offs for any successful claim by former Executrix to the IOLTA fund. . . .

         FACTS

This case arises out of the embezzlement of Estate funds and conversion of its assets by the now-former Estate attorney (Attorney), while under the fiduciary eyes of the now-former Executrix [Appellant]. Carryl Walter (Decedent) died testate on May 11, 2011; Decedent left major assets of cash in Members 1stCredit Union (MFFCU), a gold and silver coin collection in a safe deposit box, and a mobile home. The salient facts from the proceeding are:
1) Executrix is the ex-daughter-in-law of Decedent and, among other accounting positions, a former payroll supervisor with the Harrisburg School District.
2) Attorney was Karl Rominger, Esq.
3) Decedent had various accounts with MFFCU, specifically a money market account, checking account, savings account, and certificates of deposit accounts.
4) Executrix was orally advised on May 25, 2011, by a representative of MFFCU that the checking, savings, and money market accounts were "benefacted" to her, and together they transferred the balances of those accounts into an individual account opened in the Executrix's individual name.
5) In the Will, specific bequests were given to Executrix, $50, 000.00; to Executrix's daughter (Decedent's granddaughter), $20, 000; to Executrix's son (Decedent's grandson), $20, 000.00; inter alia, with a specific gift of the coin collection to the National Military Family Association.
6) The coin collection was removed from a safe deposit box and sold to a dealer in New Cumberland, PA., who had been found by Executrix, and together Executrix and Attorney took the coins to that dealer, who gave Executrix a check for $92, 314.00
7) Executrix set up a separate Estate bank account for the coin proceeds to send to the charity per good accounting practice, but instead the funds were transferred to Attorney's IOLTA account allegedly at the charity's request, and Attorney subsequently embezzled those funds from the IOLTA account.
8) Executrix was told by Attorney [that] the charity[] [had sent an] email request[ing] cash in lieu of coin delivery[, ] but [she] never saw any documentation [to that effect].
9) Decedent had a mobile home that Executrix tried to sell on her own - estimated value of $49, 900.00.
10) The best offer for the mobile home was $35, 000.00; however, no sale occurred due to potential buyer's financial issues.
11) The mobile home was "sold" via title transfer to Executrix's daughter in lieu of her receipt of a $20, 000.00 specific bequest.
12) The only beneficiary designation form signed by Decedent, on or about December 29, 2009, as shown in MFFCU computer's system for all accounts was for a certificate of deposit, denominated as Share 41, which at Decedent's death had matured on September 25, 2010, and that account left empty [sic].
13) At one point in time, Share 41 had a $50, 000.00 balance with Executrix individually ...

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