In re Cerullo

A husband and wife married, but within a month, the husband passed away. The wife claimed that the husband gave her his luxury cars before he died. The husband’s sister was named executrix of the estate and claimed otherwise. The case turned on the Dead Man’s Act. In re Cerullo could have been the start to a Hollywood script, but instead, it is a Pennsylvania Superior Court opinion. The Orphans’ Court held an evidentiary hearing on the wife’s objections to the first and final account of the husband’s estate. The wife claimed that the cars were given to her as a valid inter vivos gift. At the hearing, two family friends and the wife testified about what the now-deceased husband had told them about gifting the cars. The Dead Man’s Act prohibits a witness from testifying when the deceased had an interest in the property at issue, the interest of the proposed witness is adverse to the decedent, and the property at issue has passed to a party of record who represents the decedent. Here, the only evidence of delivery — a necessary element of an inter vivos gift — was the wife’s testimony. But she was incompetent to testify under the Dead Man’s Act. Thus, the Superior Court reversed the Orphans’ Court’s order that had sustained the wife’s objections.

IN-RE-ESTATE-OF-FIORENTINO-CERULLO

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