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In re Estate of Kinert v. Penn. Dept. of Revenue

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania
693 A.2d 643 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1996)


Hildreth M. Kinert died in 1990. Kinert’s will “devised” to her foster sons, James B. Quade and James R. Lawley, a “terminable life estate” consisting of the right to occupy her house for the rest of their natural lives or until they had both vacated the premises for 60 days, subject to the condition that they pay taxes on the property and keep it up. Once the property ceased to be used by Quade and Lawley, it was to pass to a local church. Quade and Lawley had resided at the house before Kinert’s death, and continued to reside there after her death, abiding by the conditions set forth in her will. Kinert’s executor (defendant) filed an accounting of the estate in 1995, classifying the bequest to the foster sons as a license to occupy the property. The state Department of Revenue (plaintiff) argued that Quade and Lawley instead had a life estate in the property. The trial court agreed with Kinert’s estate that the foster sons had a license to occupy the house. The Department of Revenue appealed, arguing again that the foster sons had a life estate, and asked the appeals court to determine the taxable value of the foster sons’ interest in the house.

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