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Guide From the Pew: A Laymans Concerns

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The trial court held that the principle of collateral estoppel bars the relitigation of issues regarding the distribution of stock dividends to Walter C. Pew between and The trial court held that because the same issues involving identical stock dividends have already been litigated by the appellants through their guardian and trustee ad litem in the previous litigation concerning the Arthur Trust, the appellants are barred from relitigating the propriety of the payment of the same stock dividends to Walter C.

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The decision to allow or to deny a prior judicial determination to collaterally bar relitigation of an issue in a subsequent action historically has been treated as a legal issue. Meridian Oil and Gas Enterprises v. Penn Central Corp. Therefore, this Court is not bound by the trial court's conclusion of law and we may draw our own conclusions from the facts as established. Accordingly, our review must focus upon whether the trial court properly utilized the doctrine of collateral estoppel to apply the decisions regarding the payment of stock dividends rendered in the Arthur Trust to the Walter Trust.

Collateral estoppel applies if 1 the issue decided in the prior case is identical to one presented in the later case; 2 there was a final judgment on the merits; 3 the party against whom the plea is asserted was a party or in privity with a party in the prior case; 4 the party or person privy to the party against whom the doctrine is asserted had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue in the prior proceeding; and 5 the determination in the prior proceeding was essential to the judgment.

City of Pittsburgh v. Zoning Bd. The inquiry must be as to the point or issue actually litigated in the prior action. Zarnecki v. Shepegi, Pa. Lincoln Sav. Loan Assoc.

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Stidham v. Millvale Sportsmen's Club, Pa. According to the rule of collateral estoppel or issue preclusion, when an issue of law is actually litigated and determined by a valid and final judgment, and the determination is essential to the judgment, the determination is conclusive in a subsequent action between the same parties, whether on the same or a different claim.

Troutman, supra, Pa. On the other hand, collateral estoppel is applicable only to essential issues of fact which have been actually litigated.

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Accord: Schubach v. Silver, Pa. Guardians and trustees ad litem are in a special sense representatives of the court. In re Kenna's Estate, Pa. The purpose of the statutory requirement of ad litem representation for minors, born and unborn, and for unascertained persons in orphans' court proceedings is that those persons shall receive notice of the proceedings, and, having been represented, the judgment of the court is effective and conclusive upon all present and future interests.


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In re Kenna's Estate, supra Pa. Guardians and trustees ad litem appointed by the orphans' court have the authority to execute binding agreements to settle litigation involving trusts provided such agreements have been approved by the orphans' court. O'Reilly v. Reading Trust Co. Instantly, the trial court properly applied the doctrine of collateral estoppel to the trustees' payment of the ordinary stock dividends to Walter C. Pew from to This exact same issue involving ordinary stock dividends was raised in the Supreme Court case, In re Trust Estate of Pew, supra, which concerned the Arthur Trust.

In that case there was a final judgment on the merits regarding the propriety of the trustees' payment of the ordinary stock dividends to Arthur C.


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The appellants were named parties in that case whose interests concerning the remaindermen's rights to the ordinary stock dividends were fully litigated by their guardian ad litem. The Supreme Court's determination that the trustees properly paid the ordinary stock dividends over to Arthur E. Pew was essential to the adjudication of the case. Therefore, aside from the fact that our Supreme Court has already determined from its construction of the trust deed that it was the settlor's intent for Walter C. Pew to receive all ordinary stock dividends, the appellants are also collaterally estopped from relitigating the issue of whether the trustees properly paid the ordinary stock dividends over to Walter C.

The appellants, through their father, Walter C. The application of the doctrine of collateral estoppel to the trustees' payment of the extraordinary stock dividends to Walter C. Pew between and , however, is problematic. The co-successor trustees assert that the stipulation entered into by the guardian and trustee ad litem for the appellants during the litigation concerning the Second Account of the Arthur Trust collaterally estops them from challenging the trustees' payment of the extraordinary stock dividends received from through to Walter C.

We disagree. The litigation surrounding the Second Account of the Arthur Trust involved whether the proceeds received from a five for four stock split should be paid over to Arthur E. The appellant's guardian and trustees ad litem also filed two objections to the Second Account complaining of disbursements from the trust principal to Arthur E. See Pew Trust, 8 Pa. The appellants' guardian and trustee ad litem, however, raised no objection to the payment of the extraordinary stock dividends during the through time period covered by the Second Account of the Arthur Trust.

Subsequently, a stipulation to the pertinent facts concerning the case was entered into by counsel for all parties and approved by the trial court. A portion of the stipulation stated that, after giving effect to all of the stock dividends distributions made to Arthur E. The trial court sustained the guardian and trustee ad litem's objections to the loans made from the trust principal.

The trial court also held that the five for four stock split was not an apportionable event. Therefore, the sole issue before the Supreme Court in the In re Trust Estate of Pew case concerned whether the trustees were compelled to apportion the proceeds of the five for four stock split between Arthur E.

As such, the stipulation entered into by the appellants' guardian and trustee ad litem concerning the propriety of the payment of the extraordinary stock dividends to Arthur E. Nor was the stipulation essential to the decree entered resolving the objections of the guardian and trustee ad litem to the Second Account of the Arthur Trust. Thus, the trial court committed error by collaterally estopping the appellants from litigating their objections to the trustees' payment of the extraordinary stock dividends to Walter C.

Because we have held that the appellants are permitted to maintain their objections to the trustees' payment of the extraordinary stock dividends to Walter C. Pew from to , we are compelled to determine the propriety of these payments. The appellants argue that because In re Catherwood's Trust, supra Pa. Therefore, the appellants assert that the extraordinary stock dividends which were improperly paid by the trustees to Walter C.

Pew from to pursuant to the abolished rule of apportionment must be returned to the trust principal for the benefit of the remaindermen. Riddle Pa. Fiduciaries may not be surcharged when they properly rely upon an adjudication of court directing payment of funds in their trust if the right to the trust income was an issue in the court proceedings. Estate of Sewell, Pa. Pew because, in their judgment, the payment of those extraordinary stock dividends did not effect the "intact value" of the trust principal. The trustees' prudence in following these decisions was bolstered by the fact that four times during this time period, our Supreme Court reaffirmed its ruling that the life tenant of a trust created before the passage of the Principal and Income Act had a constitutional right to receive all stock dividends, both ordinary and extraordinary, except where necessary to preserve the "intact value" of the trust principal.

See Cunningham's Estate, Pa. The Supreme Court specifically held as follows. In overruling these decisions, we are keenly aware of the fact that distributions have been made in many estates in reliance on these decisions and the vitality of the Pennsylvania Rule of Apportionment. Such distributions are not affected in any manner by our present ruling. In their argument, the appellants conveniently ignore this holding and instead build their argument around the language contained in the decision which states that "In all audits now pending and henceforth, distributions shall be made under the provisions of the Principal and Income Act of On the basis of this language, the appellants have asserted that as the distributions of the extraordinary stock dividends to Walter C.

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Pew from to were never the subject of a formal adjudication, the Principal and Income Act of must be applied to the Walter Trust pursuant to In re Catherwood's Trust, supra Pa. Thus, the appellants maintain that the extraordinary stock dividends paid to Walter C. Pew from to , a time when the Pennsylvania Rule of Apportionment was still the law of this Commonwealth, must be returned by his estate to the trust principal because the trustees failed to have these distributions audited before the Pennsylvania Rule of Apportionment was abolished.

In Heyl Estate, supra, the distinguished Orphans' Court judge, the Honorable Harold Durston Saylor, explained why the same argument raised by the appellants in the instant case is without merit. The Supreme Court, in speaking of "distributions. That "distributions" was used in this broad sense is seen from the final sentence: "In all audits now pending and henceforth, distributions shall be made under the provisions of the Principal and Income Act of If "distributions" includes those made pursuant to awards in adjudications for the purpose of construing the last sentence, there is no reason why it does not have the same broad meaning in construing the sentence which excepts prior "distributions" made in reliance on the prior law of apportionment.

A consideration of the purpose of the exception confirms the conclusion here reached.

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It is manifest that it was the intent of the Supreme Court to preserve for all past transfers the stability and finality which they would otherwise enjoy but for the rule of the Catherwood Trust. The purpose of the court was that Catherwood Trust should not unsettle the past and should have prospective operation only. If awards made under prior adjudications are not protected from the rule of the Catherwood Trust, all prior adjudications and awards thereunder, at least to the extent that the right to take an appeal or obtain a bill of review would still be available, would be unsettled by that decision, contrary to the manifest intent of the court.


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The word "distribution", as used in the Catherwood Trust, must be given the meaning of any kind of distribution by any authority. Sight must not be lost of the fact that the Supreme Court necessarily had to bear in mind the problems of estates throughout the Commonwealth; not only in counties, such as Philadelphia, in which there is a separate orphans' court, but also in those in which there is not such a separate court.

The Catherwood Trust exception had to be phrased in such terms that it would embrace the distributions made in counties not having separate orphans' courts, in which counties, prior to this adopting of the present Supreme Court Orphans' Court rules, an accounting in court consisted of filing an account which was called for confirmation.

If objections were made, the matter was referred to an auditor. If no objections were made, the account was confirmed and the accountant, without any court order, decree or adjudication, then distributed the estate, and no record thereof was ever made or preserved in the court. The Supreme Court in providing for practice past and present throughout the Commonwealth, therefore, must be deemed to have employed "distribution" to include every kind of transfer from a fiduciary without any distinction as to whether he was acting at his risk or under the authority of an adjudication or some form of order or decree of court.

Heyl Estate, supra at See also Erdman Estate, 28 Pa. Moreover, the appellants' reliance upon In re Estate of Arrott, Pa. Pew must return the extraordinary stock dividends which were paid to him under the rule of apportionment before it was abolished by the Catherwood decision is misplaced. In Arrott, unlike the instant case, no distribution of stock dividends to the life beneficiaries were made under the rule of apportionment before the Catherwood decision.

At the time the Supreme Court abolished the applicability of the rule of apportionment to all trusts created before the passage of the Principal and Income Acts of and , the trustees' proposed distributions of the stock dividends pursuant to the rule of apportionment were pending before the trial court.