IN RE: ESTATE OF SOPHIA M. KRASINSKI, A/K/A SOPHIA KRASINSKI A/K/A SOFIA KRASINSKY, LATE OF MORRISDALE, (COOPER TOWNSHIP) CLEARFIELD COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA DECEASED ON 11/04/2006 APPEAL OF: PATRICIA KRASINSKI-DUNZIK IN RE: ESTATE OF SOPHIA M. KRASINSKI A/K/A SOPHIA KRASINSKI A/K/A SOPHIA KRASINSKY LATE OF MORRISDALE (COOPER TOWNSHIP), CLEARFIELD COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA DECEASED NOVEMBER 4, 2006 APPEAL OF: PATRICIA KRASINSKI-DUNZIK
ARGUED: April 9, 2019
from the Order of the Superior Court entered May 15, 2018 at
Nos. 1289 WDA 2015, 1265 WDA 2015, affirming in part,
reversing in part and vacating in part the Order of the Court
of Common Pleas of Clearfield County entered July 16, 2015 at
No. 1707-0003, and remanding.
SAYLOR, C.J., BAER, TODD, DONOHUE, DOUGHERTY, WECHT, MUNDY,
discretionary appeal presents the Court with an opportunity
to clarify the proper scope of Rule 342(a)(6) of the
Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure, which provides for
an appeal as of right from an order of the Orphans' Court
Division that "determin[es] an interest in real or
personal property." Pa.R.A.P. 342(a)(6). Pa.R.A.P.
342(c) further provides that the failure of a party to
immediately appeal an order appealable under, inter alia,
Rule 342(a)(6), constitutes a waiver of all objections to the
order. Pa.R.A.P. 342(c). Applying these rules to the case at
bar, we conclude that Appellant Patricia Krasinski-Dunzik
("Dunzik") waived all objections to the
orphans' court's order dated April 30, 2013 approving
a private sale of land. Accordingly, we affirm the Superior
M. Krasinski (the "Decedent") died testate on
November 4, 2006. Her will named Edward Krasinski (the
"Executor") as the executor of her estate. The
Executor is one of the Decedent's four children, who also
include Eleanor Krasinski ("Eleanor"), James
Krasinski ("James"), and Dunzik. Decedent's
will directed that each of her four children were equal
beneficiaries of the residue of the estate after debts and
funeral expenses were paid. Eleanor relinquished her
twenty-five percent interest to Dunzik on January 9, 2013.
The primary assets of the estate included three parcels of
real estate: (1) twenty acres of property with an appraised
value of $55, 000 ("Johnny Hoover Place"); (2) a
barn and ninety-five acres of property, including sixty-eight
acres of coal rights, with an appraised value of $230, 000
("Wicks' Place"); and (3) a house, buildings,
and approximately ninety-nine acres with an appraised value
of $200, 000 ("Homestead Place"). Dunzik and her
husband constructed a residence, a barn, and appurtenances on
Homestead Place and had lived there for many years at the
time of Decedent's death.
7, 2010, the Executor filed a petition to permit the private
sale of real estate to heirs. In that petition, the Executor
averred that Dunzik was objecting to the distribution of all
three properties because it was her position she already
owned them based on a prior oral agreement between herself
and the Decedent. After argument and briefing, on March 22,
2011 the orphans' court granted the Executor's
petition to permit the private sale of all of the real
estate. Specifically, the orphans' court concluded, inter
alia, that Dunzik had not produced a writing that satisfied
the statute of frauds and thus lacked the legally required
proof to support her claim that she owned the properties.
and her husband then filed a civil complaint against the
estate based upon the alleged oral contract with the
Decedent. On December 24, 2012, after a nonjury trial, the
trial court ruled that there was no enforceable oral contract
between Dunzik and Decedent and dismissed the case. This
trial court's order also lifted a stay on the
orphans' court's prior order approving the private
sale of the Decedent's lands. Dunzik did not appeal the
trial court's rulings.
February 8, 2013, the estate's attorney sent a letter to
the four heirs explaining the process by which the private
sale would occur. With respect to the Homestead Place
property, the letter stated that if Dunzik and her husband
did not purchase all of the property of Homestead Place,
steps would be taken to ensure they could maintain ownership
of the home and barn on the property. Specifically, the
letter provided that "[t]his sale does not include the
home and barn … and if [Dunzik] does not purchase
[Homestead Place] an adjustment in real estate will have to
be made to allow for the ground under those two buildings to
be separately owned and assessed to [Dunzik and her
husband]." Orphans' Court Opinion, 4/22/2015, at 9.
The bidding took place one week later, on February 15, 2013.
The Executor, James and his wife, and Dunzik attended, at
which time Dunzik stated that she would not be bidding
because she believed that she already owned the properties.
She then left the meeting. In her absence, James and his wife
bid $230, 000 for Wicks' Place. Edward bid $55, 000 for
Johnny Hoover Place. Edward, James and his wife jointly bid
$120, 000 for Homestead Place.
March 7, 2013, the Executor petitioned the orphans' court
to approve the sale of these properties to the residuary
heirs for these amounts, attaching the proposed deeds to the
three properties as exhibits. Contrary to the representation
in the February 8, 2013 letter from the estate's
attorney, the deed for Homestead Place did not include any
provision permitting Dunzik and her husband to retain
ownership of the house and barn. On March 14, 2013, Dunzik
filed pro se objections to the petition, which did not
include any objection relating to the sale of the properties.
On April 30, 2013, the orphans' court, after argument,
entered an order approving the sales of the three properties
and authorizing the estate to issue the three deeds to the
purchasers at the private sale.
30, 2014, the Executor filed a first and final accounting.
Dunzik, through counsel, filed six objections, four of which
related to the sales of real property approved pursuant to
the April 30, 2013 order. Dunzik first objected to the manner
in which the private sale was conducted, including a claim
that the Executor and his brother James conspired to purchase
the properties for themselves without competitive bidding,
thus suppressing the sales prices. Dunzik requested the
filing of an amended final accounting that set forth the true
value of the real estate. Second, Dunzik objected to the
failure to include a limiting condition regarding
Petitioner's home, barn, and underlying land in the
Homestead Place deed, as promised in the February 8, 2013
letter from the estate's attorney, and that the Executor
and James had changed the terms of the sale without proper
notice. Dunzik demanded that the estate provide her and her
husband with a deed securing their ownership of the lands
underneath their house and barn and all surrounding lands
appurtenance to the same. Third, Dunzik objected to the
placement of a right of way easement over the Homestead Place
tract in favor of the Johnny Hoover Place tract, which she
claimed increased the value of the Johnny Hoover property
(purchased by the Executor). Dunzik insisted that a revised
final accounting be prepared that included the correct values
for the two properties. Fourth, Dunzik claimed that the
Executor had sold lands to himself at artificially reduced
prices, which were based upon faulty appraisals that, inter
alia, did not include the value of the timber, subsurface
rights and Marcellus Shale gas. As with the first and third
claims, Dunzik requested that a revised final accounting
include the true values of the properties for distribution
purposes. Id. at 5-7.
order and opinion dated April 22, 2015, the orphans'
court denied these four objections,  concluding that
pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 342, Dunzik had waived them because she
had not filed an appeal in the Superior Court from the April
30, 2013 order (approving the completion of the proposed
sales) within thirty days of its entry.
Pennsylvania Rule of Appellate Procedure 342, entitled
Appealable Orphans' Court Orders, clearly states that an
order from a decree of the [o]rphans' [c]ourt determining
an interest in real property is immediately appealable.
Failure to appeal such an order constitutes a waiver of all
objections to such order and any objections may not be raised
in a subsequent procedure. See Rule of Appellate
Procedure 342(a)(6) and (c). Therefore, the claims set forth
in the first four objections have been waived by [Dunzik]
through her failure to file an appeal of this [c]ourt's
[o]rder of April 30, 2013.
Id. at 8.
orphans' court so ruled despite its acknowledgement that
the estate had not followed "acceptable and legal
process in conducting the sales" with respect to the
Dunzik's house and barn. Orphans' Court Opinion,
4/22/2015, at 8. The court indicated that the excuses given
by the Executor and the estate's attorney for not
including language in the Homestead Place deed providing for
the Dunziks' continued ownership of the land under their
house and barn were "woefully
inadequate." The court insisted that the Executor
had acted in his own interests as co-purchaser of Homestead
Place, an act that "some may construe … to be
fraud." Id. at 10. Nevertheless, although the
orphans' court was of the view that "fundamental
fairness dictates a different result," it held that
Pa.R.A.P. 342 compelled it to conclude that Dunzik's four
objections to the private sale had been waived for her
failure to timely appeal.
fiduciary deed executed, acknowledged and recorded on May 31,
2013, the Executor conveyed the Homestead tract to himself,
James and his wife. In August, 2013, these three individuals
joined in the filing of an action in ejectment against
Dunzik, her husband and Eleanor (who has resided on
Decedent's property her entire life). This action,
seeking the removal of the two sisters from their residences,
appeal, the Superior Court issued an en banc decision on May
15, 2018 in which it, inter alia, affirmed the orphans'
court's ruling that Dunzik had waived all objections to
the estate's private sale of real estate by failing to
appeal from the April 30, 2013 order. In re Estate of
Krasinski, 188 A.3d 461, 469-70 (Pa. Super. 2018) (en
banc). The Superior Court ruled that the orphans'
court's April 30, 2013 order "finalized the sale of
real estate by the Executor" and thus clearly
"determine[d] an interest in real ... property."
Id. at 469. Consequently, the Superior Court held
that the orphans' court's April 30, 2013 order was
appealable as of right pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 342(a)(6) and
Dunzik's failure to appeal within thirty days of its
entry resulted in a waiver of all claims related to the sale
pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 342(c). Id. at 469-70.
Judge Shogan issued a dissenting opinion.
Court granted allowance of appeal to consider the following
(1) Does Pa.R.A.P. [...] 342(a)(6), which provides for an
immediate appeal as of right from Orphans' Court orders
"... determining an interest in real or personal
property[, "] also allow or require an immediate appeal
from an order of the Orphans' Court permitting or denying
the personal representative the authority to sell real or
personal property, such that filing the appeal from the Order
confirming the [f]irst [and] [f]inal account was deemed to be
a waiver of those issues?
(2) Did the Superior Court commit an error of law, and
misconstrue Pa.R.A.P. [...] 342(a)(6) in its holding that an
order confirming the sale of real property of a
decedent's estate was an order determining an interest in
real property, and that an appeal from such an order was
waived if not filed within thirty [...] days of said order?
(3) Did the Superior Court commit an error of law by
misconstruing Pa.R.A.P. [...] 342(a)(6), and ignoring, or
otherwise failing to address controlling authority
encompassed by the Superior Court decisions and holdings in
In re Estate of Ash, 73 A.3d 1287 (Pa. Super. 2013),
and In re Estate of Cherry, 111 A.3d 1204 (Pa.
In re Estate of Krasinski, 198 A.3d 1045 (Pa. 2018).
While set forth in three distinct formulations, at bottom
these issues present a single question for this Court's
consideration: did the orphans' court's April, 30,
2013 order determine an interest in real property in
accordance with Pa.R.A.P. 342(a)(6), and, if so, did
Dunzik's failure to appeal within thirty days result in a
waiver of all claims related to the sale of real property
pursuant to Rule 342(c). The proper interpretation of a rule
presents a question of law and our standard of review is de
novo. Touloumes v. E.S.C. Inc., 899 A.2d 343, 346
n.4 (Pa. 2006). Our scope of review, to the extent necessary
to resolve the legal question before us, is the entire record
and is thus plenary. Id.
to 1992, a "final order" for purposes of appeal was
not precisely defined in the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil
Procedure. Rather, the finality of an order was generally
governed by appellate court decisions holding that the order
had a "final aspect" to it.The "final
aspect" approach was useful for parties in orphans'
court proceedings, as a large number of orders issue by these
courts resolved specific issues, like the rights of
beneficiaries and the disposition of real or personal
property, but did not terminate the entire administrative
proceeding. In 1992, however, this Court adopted Pa.R.A.P.
341, which defines a "final order" as one that
disposes of all claims and of all parties. Pa.R.A.P.
341(b)(1). As a result of this change, many orphans'
court orders that would have been appealable under the
"final aspect" doctrine were no longer appealable,
as only the order approving the final accounting disposes of
"all claims and all parties." This new definition
of "final order" proved to be problematic to
orphans' court practice, including for example with
respect to the disposition of real estate. Personal
representatives (including executors), guardians and trustees
had typically sought the finality of orphans' court
approval of real estate transactions pursuant to section 548
of the Fiduciaries Act of 1949 (now section 3353 of the
Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code, 20 Pa.C.S. §
3353). Because after 1992 orders approving
dispositions of real estate were no longer immediately
appealable, the finality of such transactions remained
uncertain until after the orphans' court had approved a
final accounting for the entire estate. It was often
difficult for a personal representative, given the
uncertainties associated with potential future appeals, to
obtain results consistent with the interests of the
1992, Pa.R.A.P. 342 permitted interlocutory appeals as of
right from orphans' court orders in only one
circumstance: non-final orders of distribution. The rule
further required that such an order was appealable only if
"the lower court shall certify that the order is
sufficiently definite to determine the substantive issues
between the parties." See In re Estate of
Habazin, 679 A.2d 1293, 1295 (Pa. Super. 1996),
abrogated by amendments to Pa.R.A.P 342. In 2000, in
part to address the difficulties just discussed, the Court
amended Pa.R.A.P. 342 to include two additional types of
orphans' court interlocutory orders appealable as of
right: (1) orders "determining an interest in realty,
personalty," and (2) an order determining the status of
individuals or entities. In re Estate of Sorber, 803
A.2d 767, 769 (Pa. Super. 2002), abrogated by amendments
to Pa.R.A.P 342. The revised rule continued to retain
the requirement that the orphans' court certify the
ruling as final before an appeal could be filed, modifying
the language slightly to require that the order "shall
constitute a final order upon a determination of finality by
the Orphans' Court Division." Id. In 2005,
the rule was amended again as follows:
342. Orphans' Court Orders Appealable. Orders Determining
Realty, Personalty and Status of Individuals or Entities.
Orders Making Distribution.
An order of the Orphans' Court Division making a
distribution, or determining an interest in realty or
personalty or the status of individuals or entities, shall be
(1) upon a determination of finality by the Orphans'
Court Division, or
(2) as otherwise provided by Chapter 3 of these
Pa.R.C.P. 342 (footnote added).
Court addressed the application of this rule in In re
Estate of Stricker, 977 A.2d 1115 (Pa. 2009). In
Stricker, two tracts of land constituted the bulk of
the decedent's estate and the will provided that they be
sold for the benefit of ten beneficiaries. There were two
co-executors, one of whom was the appellant. One tract was
subject to a third party's option to repurchase the
property, which the third party had exercised. The remaining
tract was put up for auction. The appellant co-executor
participated in the auction, but another bidder (John Fulton)
entered a considerably higher bid. The orphans' court
directed the estate to deliver that tract to Fulton, but the
appellant refused to cooperate in transferring either tract.
The orphans' court entered an order to compel the
appellant to sign the agreement of sale transferring the
tract purchased by Fulton, and did not certify any of its
orders as final. The Superior Court ...