Estate of Rudy, Matter of

Decision Date13 July 1984
Citation478 A.2d 879,329 Pa.Super. 458
PartiesIn the Matter of the ESTATE OF George B. RUDY, Jr., Deceased. Appeal of Mary C. LAU and Margaret A. Lau, Exceptants.
CourtPennsylvania Superior Court

Lewis P. Sterling, York, for appellant.

Byron H. LeCates, York, for Williams, participating party.

Robert M. Strickler, York and Lawrence Barth, Deputy Atty. Gen., for The Visiting Nurse, participating party.



This is an appeal from the final decree of the Orphan's Court of York County dismissing appellant's exceptions to the Chancellor's decree nisi and adjudication. For the reasons below, we affirm.

On June 23, 1980, George B. Rudy died, leaving a will dated April 1, 1976, and a codicil thereto dated February 9, 1979. Item III of the will stated: "I give my personal effects and all items of Rudy Family memorabilia ... to ... George W. Williams, III [appellee]...." Item VIII of Mr. Rudy's will bequeathed all of his real property, "together with the contents thereof", to his friends, Mary and Margaret Lau [appellants]. The residue of the estate was placed in trust, with the income thereof payable perpetually to several charitable organizations, among them the York College of Pennsylvania.

Appellants contest the disposition of certain items found locked in a filing cabinet on the deceased's premises. These items, with an estimated fair market value well in excess of $500,000 include: municipal bonds, corporate stock, a collection of rare coins, several valuable watches, a sizable amount of cash and an assortment of fine jewelry.

Shortly after Mr. Rudy's death, a proposed account and distribution was filed for audit by the executor of the estate. The Chancellor held that the above mentioned assets passed to appellee as "personal effects" under Item III of the will. Appellants excepted to this finding; they claimed these assets were "contents" of Mr. Rudy's home that belonged to them by virtue of Item VIII of the will. The court en banc, agreeing with the logic of the Chancellor, dismissed appellants' exceptions and awarded assets to appellee.

Appellants challenge the validity of that disposition. They raise myriad substantive issues. Before we address those issues, we must resolve appellants' sole procedural claim.


Appellants argue that the lower court erred when it allowed appellee to file an untimely objection to the account. Appellee filed the objection after the statutory period for such filing had expired. The record reveals that the account had originally been filed for audit on July 1, 1981. Before this audit, appellants filed several objections challenging the proposed account. At the call of the audit list, the audit was continued pending disposition of those objections. Thereafter, on July 17, 1981, appellee filed his objections to the account. Appellants now contend that this latter filing was untimely under Rule 70.2 and 70.3 of the local rules of court in York County. 1 We do not agree.

In Gertzens Estate, 18 Dist. 925 (1909), it was specifically held that where the filing of exceptions to an adjudication has suspended confirmation thereof, other exceptions may be filed nunc pro tunc after the time for filing exceptions had expired. 2 Here, appellants' filing of objections delayed the audit beyond its original call date. Under Gertzens Estate, supra, appellee thus became entitled to file objections after the original deadline for filing had expired. 3 Therefore, we will not view appellees objections as untimely.


This procedural obstacle behind us, we focus on appellants' main contentions. Appellants argue that the Chancellor erred in holding that testator's bequest of the "contents" of his house did not include the cash, stock, bonds, rare coins, jewelry and watches found therein at the time of his death.

The Chancellor, in his decision, relied primarily upon McCartney's Estate, 61 D. & C. 112 (1947), where it was held that a bequest of a home and the entire contents thereof, did not include bonds, stock certificates, insurance policies, gold coins, and other personal effects of the testator. We find this case on point with the instant matter.

Similarly, our Supreme Court recently held that a devise of a house "as well as all furnishings within said house", did not include stock certificates, a vehicle title, and a mortgage payable to testator which were found locked in a safe in the devised premises. In re Estate of Baker, 495 Pa. 522, 434 A.2d 1213 (1981). 4

In light of this explicit authority, we hold that the Chancellor properly concluded that testator's bequest of the "contents" of his house did not include the cash, stock, bonds, old coins, watches and jewelry found therein. 5

Appellants next contend that the testimony of testator's lawyer, secretary, doctor, banker and accountant, was improperly admitted as evidence of testator's subjective interest. 6

It is well established that extrinsic evidence is not ordinarily admissible to vary, contradict, or add to the terms of a will to show a different intention on the part of the testator than that disclosed by the language of the will. See Estate of Felice, 487 Pa. 342, 409 A.2d 382 (1979); Dinkey Estate, 403 Pa. 179, 168 A.2d 337 (1961). However, when the court charged with construction of a will cannot, in good faith, distribute the estate by reference to that document alone, then it is proper and necessary to refer to sources beyond the will itself. Soles Estate, 451 Pa. 568, 304 A.2d 97 (1973).

In Soles Estate, supra, our Supreme Court specifically upheld the admissibility of extrinsic evidence in a similar setting. "[T]he court must 'place itself in the armchair' of the testatrix and examine not only the document she designated as her will, but also the circumstances surrounding her at the time she did so." 451 Pa. at 574, 304 A.2d at 100 (citations omitted) (emphasis added). The trial judge in the instant case felt the offered testimony would aid in distributing the testator's estate. Since the testimony did not impermissibly intrude into the subjective intent of the testator, but rather referred only to the circumstances attendant to the execution of testator's will and codicil, we find no error in its admission.

Appellants next argue that the court erred in refusing to find a conflict of interest where appellee and a residuary beneficiary were both represented by the same counsel.

The source of the alleged conflict is a cache of gold coins located in a safe deposit box. The coins were claimed by appellee as part of testator's "personal effects" under Item III of the will. When this claim failed, the coins passed to the York College of Pennsylvania, the designated charitable beneficiary.

We can think of no practical reason why appellants raise such a meaningless argument when it is perfectly clear that they have no possible claim of right to the property in question. 7

Furthermore, we fail to see even a potential for conflict when the opposing parties--appellee and the York College of Pennsylvania--have stipulated that the coins should undoubtedly pass to appellee.

Appellants final argument focuses on a particular factual finding of the lower court, namely, that testator was occasionally irritable, confused, forgetful, and sometimes incapable of...

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8 cases
  • In re Jackson
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Superior Court
    • November 7, 2017
    ...regarding his conversation with the testator was properly admitted to clarify an ambiguity in a will)13 ; In re Estate of Rudy , 329 Pa.Super. 458, 478 A.2d 879, 881–82 (1984) (concluding that testimony of testator's lawyer, secretary, doctor, banker, and accountant was properly admitted, w......
  • Estate of Shoptaugh, In re
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • September 16, 1985
    ...Trust Co. v. Hale (1939), 302 Mass. 68, 18 N.E.2d 432; In re Estate of Lamb (1971), 445 Pa. 323, 285 A.2d 163; Matter of Estate of Rudy (1984), 329 Pa.Super. 458, 478 A.2d 879; Re Falvey's Will (1962), 15 App.Div.2d 415, 224 N.Y.S.2d 899, 5 A.L.R.3d 458; 80 Am.Jur.2d, Wills, Sec. 1277 (1975......
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • August 23, 2001
    ...12 N.Y.2d 759, 234 N.Y.S.2d 713, 186 N.E.2d 563 (1962); In re Estate of Lamb, 445 Pa. 323, 285 A.2d 163 (1971); In re Estate of Rudy, 329 Pa.Super. 458, 478 A.2d 879 (1984)). The gift of the "contents" of a home is limited to those things ordinarily identified with a home. Shoptaugh, 482 N.......
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals
    • April 22, 2004
    ...thereof" did not include savings and checking accounts, savings bank certificates, and uncashed checks); In re Estate of Rudy, 329 Pa.Super. 458, 478 A.2d 879, 881 (1984) (testator's bequest of the "contents" of his house did not include the cash, stocks, bonds, old coins, watches, and jewe......
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