Property I, Pages 206–209

In Re Estate of Evans

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, 1976

Facts:

Plaintiff, the niece of the deceased's wife, worked for the Evanses for several years, primarily taking care of Mrs. Evans until she died. She received adequate compensation. Mr. Evans eventually moved into plaintiff's house after a period of hospitalization. Plaintiff's husband took Evans to the bank a month before his death, where he received keys to his safe deposit box. Witnesses say he gave the keys and the contents of the box to the plaintiff. Plaintiff gave the keys to a bank officer, but insisted the contents were hers. The box was revealed to contain $800,000 in bonds, stock, and miscellaneous items.

Procedural History:

The lower court ruled that no delivery had been made because the deceased had not given up complete dominion and control over the safe deposit box.

Issue:

Did Mr. Evans deliver the contents of the safe deposit box?

Plaintiff's Argument:

The deceased gave her some items of his safe deposit box before he died and hence they should not be included in his estate.

Rule:

An inter vivos gift requires donative intent and delivery.

Reasoning:

Plaintiff did not have access to the box, which was still in Evans' name. Evans was at the bank with plaintiff's husband and could have transferred control of the box. He also had two more weeks he could have given plaintiff the contents before he was hospitalized for the final time.

Holding:

No, Mr. Evans did not deliver the contents of his safe deposit box. They were properly included in his estate. Affirmed.

Dissenting Opinion:

Roberts: Evans clearly intended the gift. He even had plaintiff show witnesses the keys. It is apparent that he believed such delivery of the keys to be sufficient, as most similar cases hold. Evans spoke of the gift in the past tense and said that they were plaintiff's. Because the deceased intended the gift and delivery, it should constitute a gift.

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